Britain expels Israeli diplomat over Dubai passport row
David Miliband: "Intolerable that a friend of the UK should operate this way."
The UK is to expel an Israeli diplomat over 12 forged British passports used in the murder of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband told the Commons there were "compelling reasons" to believe Israel was responsible for the passport "misuse".
He said: "The government takes this matter extremely seriously. Such misuse of British passports is intolerable."
Israel's ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, said he was "disappointed".
He said: "The relationship between Israel and the UK is of mutual importance, hence we are disappointed by the... decision."
Israel has said there is no proof it was behind the killing at a Dubai hotel, and an official confirmed there would be no tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsion.
There can't be a greater violation of trust for one ally to abuse the passports of another ally
Sir Menzies Campbell
Expulsion 'a strong signal'
But Mr Miliband said it was "highly likely" the Israeli secret service Mossad was involved and the fact that Israel was a close ally added "insult to injury".
He said he had evidence that genuine passports belonging to UK citizens had been copied after being handed over for inspection to "individuals linked to Israel".
"Given that this was a very sophisticated operation, in which high-quality forgeries were made, the government judges it is highly likely that the forgeries were made by a state intelligence service," he said.
"We have concluded that there are compelling reasons to believe Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports."
The BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen said the expulsion sent a "very clear message" of British disapproval.
"It is a very big step for a government like the British to expel one of the diplomats belonging to one of its important allies," he said.
Ron Prosor: "The relationship between Israel and the UK is of mutual importance"
The British government has stopped short of accusing Israel of the murder, but Mr Miliband had previously demanded full co-operation with its investigation into how the passports were obtained.
It is believed 12 fake British passports were used in the plot to murder Mr Mabhouh - the founder of Hamas's military wing - in his hotel room in Dubai on 19 January.
The names and details on the UK passports used by eight of the 12 suspects belonged to British-Israeli citizens living in Israel - all of whom have denied involvement in Mr Mabhouh's murder.
Their passports had been copied and new photographs inserted.
The foreign secretary said officers from Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) had travelled to Israel to speak to the passport holders and had concluded there was proof of Israeli involvement with passport cloning.
Tim Franks, BBC News, Jerusalem
"Regret" is the official Israeli emotion, not anger, not surprise, and certainly not retribution.
There is a clear Israeli desire to dampen this argument down from one where it could damage the wider relationship.
"It doesn't look good," was the terse verdict of one former senior diplomat. Other sources suggested this was a "standard dance" Britain had to go through.
But this is not being said with a tremendous swagger. After all, this is not the first time Israel has been caught with its hand in a sweet jar full of British passports. On that occasion, more than 20 years ago, Israel promised not to repeat the offence. That promise appears to have expired.
Israel is already feeling the heat from the US for its continued building on occupied territory. The Israeli government will not, right now, want to fight on too many fronts.
Mr Miliband said: "Soca were drawn to the conclusion that the passports used were copied from genuine British passports when handed over for inspection to individuals linked to Israel, either in Israel or in other countries."
He also said he was amending official travel advice to Israel to make British nationals aware of the risks of identity theft.
A spokesman for the Palestinian Hamas group said it welcomed the decision to expel the diplomat but wanted international efforts to track down the killers stepped up.
Former Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, said for a diplomat to be expelled, Israel must have had "some hand" in the matter, or had been unwilling to co-operate with Soca.
He told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme: "It is very serious indeed... there can't be a greater violation of trust for one ally to abuse the passports of another ally."
Dubai police have used CCTV footage to identify 27 alleged members of the team that tracked and killed Mr Mabhouh.
Other members of the hit squad travelled on fake Irish, French and Australian travel documents, Dubai police said.
Dubai officials said they were "99% certain" that agents from Mossad were behind the killing but Israel has said there is no proof its agents were involved.
Following his death, Mr Mabhouh's family said doctors who had examined him determined he had died after receiving a massive electric shock to the head. They also found evidence that he had been strangled.
Blood samples sent to a French laboratory confirmed he was killed by electric shock, after which the body was sent to Syria.
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