UK to expel Israeli diplomat over British passport abuse

Expulsion follows use of 12 fake passports by suspected Mossad agents during killing of Hamas leader in Dubai

The mother of Hamas militant Mahmoud al-Mabhouh holds a photo of him
The mother of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh holds a photo of him in Gaza. Britain is to expel an Israeli diplomat over the use of fake British passports during the killing of the Hamas militant by suspected Mossad agents. Photograph: Hatem Moussa/AP
Britain is to expel an Israeli diplomat over the use of forged UK passports by the killers of a senior Hamas official in January.
The foreign secretary, David Miliband, will make a statement to the House of Commons this afternoon, blaming Israeli intelligence for the cloning of passports belonging to British citizens. The documents were carried by an assassination team that killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel.
British officials said Miliband would "request" the immediate departure of an Israeli diplomat, adding that they expect the request to be honoured.
"We think they mucked around with our passports, and we believe that requires consequences," an official said.
Miliband will announce the results of an investigation by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) into the abuse of British passports in the assassination, which will implicate Israel.
Diplomats stressed that the foreign secretary's remarks would be confined to the issue of passports and would not address Mabhouh's murder: "That is for the Emirati authorities," an official said.
However, the statement will be widely seen around the world as the first definitive allegation from a western government of Israeli responsibility for the murder.
The expelled official is not being accused of direct personal involvement, officials said. The unusual step is intended as a gesture to reflect British anger.
In 1986, a Mossad agent left an Israeli embassy envelope containing eight forged British passports in a German telephone box. Israeli diplomats were only expelled a year later after a Palestinian working as an Israeli double agent was found with a cache of weapons in Hull. Margaret Thatcher also closed down the Mossad's London base.
Mabhouh was assassinated in his hotel room on 19 January by a group of killers wearing fake beards, wigs and other disguises.
Dubai officials said they were "99% certain" that the Mossad agents were behind the murder but Israel has refused to confirm or deny the link.
At the time Miliband called the abuse of British passports "outrageous" and demanded that Tel Aviv co-operate fully with the UK's investigation.
Israel's ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, was summoned to the Foreign Office last month to discuss the situation, but he denied there was any "additional information" to give.
Soca detectives reportedly flew to Israel three weeks ago to interview the dual British-Israeli nationals whose identities were used in the killings.
It is understood the officers attempted to interview Israeli government officials but were given only "limited co-operation", according to one Whitehall source.
A file was prepared by the officers, and sent to the Home Office last week. It had since been forwarded to the Foreign Office and resulted in the statement to be made later today.
A total of 12 British passports are alleged to have been forged. An initial six had the names of Michael Barney, James Clarke, Stephen Hodes, Jonathan Louis Graham, Paul John Keeley and Melvyn Mildiner. Last month, Dubai identified the use of a further six fake British passports with the names of Mark Daniel Sklar, Roy Allan Cannon, Daniel Marc Schnur, Philip Carr, Stephen Keith Drake and Gabriella Barney. A Foreign Office spokesman said the government believed their passport details had been used fraudulently.
Other members of the hit squad travelled on fake Irish, French and Australian travel documents, Dubai police said. At least 15 of the suspected killers share names with Israeli citizens, fuelling suspicions that the Mossad was behind the hit. Interpol has published a wanted list of 27 people in connection with the killing.
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