Mahmoud al-Mabhouh's death in Dubai had all the hallmarks of a hit by the Jewish state's spy agency, writes Jason Koutsoukis in Jerusalem.
The Hamas gunrunner Mahmoud al-Mabhouh arrived in Dubai on an Emirates flight from Syria at 3pm on January 19.
The Dubai police chief, Lieutenant-General Dahi Khalfan al-Tamim, said Mabhouh checked into his room at the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel about 4pm. After depositing some documents in the hotel safe, Mabhouh went out for dinner, arriving back at his room by 9pm.
Police believe that shortly after, the usually security-conscious Mabhouh, who routinely blocked the doors to his hotel rooms with heavy furniture, opened his door to a woman.
Hours later Mabhouh, 49, was dead, believed poisoned by a mystery drug that at first led investigators to think he had suffered a heart attack.
Dubai police believe that the suspects, at least seven people carrying European passports, were out of the country before Mabhouh's body was discovered by hotel housekeeping staff at midday on January 20.
Later that day, Hamas officials in Damascus went so far as to put out a statement saying that Mabhouh had died of natural causes.
Nearly 10 days later, autopsy blood results returned from France suggested otherwise.
In the ever-suspicious world of Middle Eastern intrigue, Mabhouh's death had all the hallmarks of an assassination by Israel's national intelligence agency, Mossad.
Israel certainly did not lack motive.
In 1989, Mabhouh was part of a team of Palestinian resistance fighters who kidnapped and killed two Israeli soldiers stationed in the Gaza Strip.
Israel either killed or arrested most of those believed responsible for the deaths, but Mabhouh got away.
Eventually arriving in the Syrian capital, where Hamas had been allowed to establish its political headquarters, Mabhouh rose through the ranks to become the movement's liaison with its main weapons supplier, Tehran, responsible for co-ordinating the movement of weapons from Iran to Gaza.
In November the chief of the Military Intelligence Directorate, Major-General Amos Yadlin, appeared before the Israeli parliament's foreign affairs and defence committee.
Yadlin said Hamas had just test-fired a rocket with a range of 60 kilometres, within range of Israel's business and financial capital, Tel Aviv, a rocket that he said had been supplied by Iran.
At Mabhouh's funeral in Damascus, 10 days after his death, the Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal, vowed revenge against Israel.
''You have assassinated an enormous man who bravely killed some of your soldiers, but this is a passing joy,'' Meshal said. ''I tell you, Zionists, do not be joyous. You killed him, but his sons will fight you.''
In September 1997, Meshal was himself the target of a bungled Mossad assassination attempt in the Jordanian capital of Amman that bears some resemblance to the way Mabhouh was killed. Meshal was getting out of his car when a man posing as a Canadian tourist approached him and squirted something in his ear.
At first, Meshal seemed fine. It was not until hours later, as he slipped in and out of consciousness, that doctors realised that he had been injected with a powerful painkiller that was shutting down his respiratory system.
Luckily for Meshal, his bodyguard had seized one of the attackers, whom local police were able to tie to Mossad. King Hussein of Jordan pressured Israel's then prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads Israel again today, to hand over the antidote.
Since the 1960s, when Mossad captured the leading Nazi Adolf Eichman, Israel has been accused by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Hezbollah of involvement in the assassination of their organisations' leaders. Israel has never responded to the accusations.
''The one part of this story that suggests Israel had something to do with it is that Mabhouh was injected with something,'' says a former Israeli security operative who spoke to the Herald this week.
Asking that only his first name be used, Itamar, who is the managing director of a specialist security consultancy, said he neither would, nor could, confirm Israel's involvement.
''But the method is indicative. Very clean and quiet, and it enabled the team to exit the country well before the body was discovered,'' he said.
The parts of the story that did not add up, Itamar said, were suggestions that Mabhouh had been tortured with an electrical device, and then possibly strangled.
''I don't think a highly trained Israeli team would bother with this simply because it would take up too much time,'' Itamar said.
So if not Israel, who?
A report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz this week said many people across the Arab world wanted Mabhouh dead.
''Unofficially, Hamas has conceded that quite a few parties had an interest in taking out Mabhouh, who had become central to the Iran-Gaza Strip axis,'' the report said, without saying who those parties might be.
Whether or not Israel was involved, proving it will be near impossible. ''Dubai police say they have the identities of seven suspects,'' Itamar said.
''Why haven't they been released? They say they have hotel security footage of people entering Mabhouh's room. Why have we not seen it?
''The answer is because any information or photographs, or security footage they have, it doesn't tell us anything.''
SUSPECTED MOSSAD ASSASSINATIONS
Zuheir Mohsen: The Palestinian leader of a pro-Syrian faction of the Palestine Liberation Organisation was shot in the head on July 15, 1979, as he returned to his flat in Cannes, France.
Khalil Ibrahim al-Wazir, more commonly known as Abu Jihad: A high ranking member of the PLO faction Fatah, he was shot multiple times in front of his wife and children near his home in Tunisia.
Fathi Shikaki: Founder of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, he was shot multiple times on October 26, 1995 in front of the Diplomat Hotel in Sliema, Malta.
Imad Mughniyeh: Liaison officer between the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah and its main ally, Iran, Mughniyeh was killed in Damascus on February 12, 2008, when the headrest of a car he was in exploded.
Mohammed Suleiman: A Syrian general and adviser to the President, Bashar al-Assad, and an intermediary between the Syrian government, Hezbollah and Iran. He was shot in the head on August 1, 2008, on a beach near the Syrian city of Tartous
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