Mossad’s Licence to Kill
By Gordon Thomas
Published: 7:15AM GMT 17 Feb 2010
The killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh bears the hallmarks of the ruthless Israeli intelligence service. One of the leading chroniclers of the agency gives a unique insight into its methods.
The Mossad assassins could have felt only satisfaction when the news broke that they had succeeded in killing Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a top Hamas military commander, in Dubai last month.
The Israeli government’s refusal to comment on the death has once more gained worldwide publicity for Mossad, its feared intelligence service. Its ruthless assassinations were made famous by the film Munich, which detailed Mossad’s attacks on the terrorists who killed Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Long ago, the agency had established that silence is the most effective way to spread terror among its Arab enemies.
In the past year, al-Mabhouh had moved to the top of Mossad’s list of targets, each of which must be legally approved under guidelines laid down over half a century ago by Meir Amit, the most innovative and ruthless director-general of the service. Born in Tiberius, King Herod’s favourite city, Amit had established the rules for assassination.
“There will be no killing of political leaders, however extreme they are. They must be dealt with politically. There will be no killing of a terrorist’s family unless they are also directly implicated in terrorism. Each execution must be sanctioned by the incumbent prime minister. Any execution is therefore state-sponsored, the ultimate judicial sanction of the law. The executioner is no different from the state-appointed hangman or any other lawfully-appointed executioner.”
I first met Amit in 2001 and through him, I talked to the spies of Mossad, the katsas, and finally, to the assassins, the kidon, who take their name from the Hebrew word for bayonet. They helped me write the only book approved by Mossad, Gideon’s Spies. Amit said the book “tells like it was – and like it is”.
Amit showed me a copy of those rules at our first meeting. After two years of training in the Mossad academy at Herzlia near Tel Aviv, each recruit to the kidon is given a copy.
The killing in Dubai is a classic example of how Mossad goes about its work. Al-Mabhouh’s 11 assassins had been chosen from the 48 current kidon, six of whom are women.
It has yet to be established how al-Mabhouh was killed, but kidon’s preference is strangling with wire, a well-placed car bomb, an electric shock or one of the poisons created by Mossad scientists at their headquarters in a Tel Aviv suburb.
The plan to assassinate Mahmoud al-Mabhouh had been finalised in a small conference room next to the office of Meir Dagan, who has run Mossad for the past eight years. The 10th director-general, Dagan has a reputation as a man who would not hesitate to walk into a nameless Arab alley with no more than a handgun in his pocket.
Only he knows how many times he has asked a prime minister for legal permission to kill a terrorist who could not be brought to trial in an Israeli court, along with the kidon to whom he shows the legally stamped document, the licence to kill.
Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s name had been on such a document, which would have been signed by Benyamin Netanyahu. That, like every aspect of a kidon operation, would be firmly denied by a government spokesman, were he to be asked. This has not stopped Dubai’s police chief, Lt-General Tamin, from fulminating against the Israeli prime minister.
Two years ago this week, Dagan sent a team of kidon to Damascus to assassinate Imad Mughniyeh. His Mossad file included details of organising the kidnapping of Terry Waite and the bombing of the US Marine base near Beirut airport, killing 241 people. The United States had placed a £12.5 million bounty on his head. Dagan just wanted him dead.
Mossad psychiatrists, psychologists, behavioural scientists, psychoanalysts and profilers – collectively known as the “specialists” – were told to decide the best way to kill Mughniyeh.
They concluded that he would be among the guests of honour at the Iranian Cultural Centre celebrations in 2008 for the celebration of the Khomeini Revolution. The team rigged a car-bomb in the headrest of the Mitsubishi Pajero they discovered Mughniyeh had rented, to be detonated by a mobile phone. As Mughniyeh arrived outside the Culture Centre at precisely 7pm on February 12, the blast blew his head off.
At Mughniyeh’s funeral in Beirut, his mother, Um-Imad, sat among a sea of black chadors, a sombre old woman, who wailed that her son had planned to visit her on the day after he died. She cried out she had no photograph to remember him by. Two days later she received a packet. Inside was his photograph. It had been posted in Haifa.
The list of kidon assassinations is long and stretches far beyond the Arab world. In their base deep in the Negev Desert – the sand broken only by a distant view of Israel’s nuclear facility at Dimona – the kidon practise with a variety of handguns, learn how to conceal bombs, administer a lethal injection in a crowd and make a killing look accidental.
They review famous assassinations – the shooting of John F Kennedy, for example – and study the faces and habits of potential targets whose details are stored on their highly restricted computers. There, too, are thousands of constantly updated street plans downloaded from Google Earth.
Mossad is one of the world’s smallest intelligence services. But it has a back-up system no other outfit can match. The system is known as sayanim, a derivative of the Hebrew word lesayeah, meaning to help.
There are tens of thousands of these “helpers”. Each has been carefully recruited, sometimes by katsas, Mossad’s field agents. Others have been asked to become helpers by other members of the secret group.
Created by Meir Amit, the role of the sayanim is a striking example of the cohesiveness of the world Jewish community. In practical terms, a sayan who runs a car rental agency will provide a kidon with a vehicle on a no-questions basis. An estate agent sayan will provide a building for surveillance. A bank manager sayan will provide funds at any time of day or night, and a sayan doctor provides medical assistance.
Any of these helpers could have been involved in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. Mossad has recently expanded its network of sayanim into Arab countries.
A sayan doctor in the West Bank provided details of the homoeopathic concoction Yasser Arafat used to drink. When he died in 2004, his personal physician, Dr al-Kurdi, said “poisoning is a strong possibility in this case”.There have been reports that more than a dozen terrorists have died from poisoning in the past five years.
Within the global intelligence community, respect for Mossad grew following the kidon assassination of Dr Gerald Bull, the Canadian scientist who was probably the world’s greatest expert on gun-barrel ballistics. Israel had made several attempts to buy his expertise. Each time, Bull had made clear his dislike for the Jewish state.
Instead he had offered his services to Saddam Hussein, to build a super-gun capable of launching shells containing nuclear, chemical or biological warheads directly from Iraq into Israel. Saddam had ordered three of the weapons at a cost of $20 million. Bull was retained as a consultant for a fee of $1 million.
On the afternoon of March 20, 1990, the sanction to kill Bull was given by the then prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir. Nahum Admoni, the head of Mossad, sent a three-man team to Brussels, where Bull lived in a luxury apartment block. Each kidon carried a handgun in a holster under his jacket.
When the 61-year-old Bull answered the doorbell of his home, he was shot five times in the head and the neck, each kidon firing their 7.65 pistol in turn, leaving Bull dead on his doorstep. An hour later they were out of the country on a flight to Tel Aviv.
Within hours, Mossad’s own department of psychological warfare had arranged with sayanim in the European media to leak stories that Bull had been shot by Saddam’s hit squad because he had planned to renege on their deal.
The same tactics had been placed on stand-by on October 24, 1995, for the assassination of Fathi Shkaki who, like Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, had reached the top of Mossad’s target list as a result of his terrorist attacks.
Two kidon – code-named Gil and Ran – had left Tel Aviv on separate flights. Ran flew to Athens, Gil to Rome. At each airport they collected new British passports from a local sayan. The two men arrived in Malta on a late-afternoon flight and checked into the Diplomat Hotel overlooking Valetta harbour.
That evening, a sayan delivered a motorcycle to Ran. He told hotel staff that he planned to use it to tour the island. At the same time, a freighter that had sailed the previous day from Haifa bound for Italy radioed to the Maltese harbour authorities that it had developed engine trouble. While it was fixed, it would drop anchor off the island. On board the boat was a small team of Mossad communications technicians. They established a link with a radio in Gil’s suitcase.
Shkaki had arrived by ferry from Tripoli, Libya, where he had been discussing with Colonel Gadaffi what Mossad was convinced was a terrorist attack. The two kidon waited for him to stroll along the waterfront. Ran and Gil drove up on the motorcycle and Gil shot Fathi Shkaki six times in the head. It had become a kidon signature.
When the police came to search Shkaki’s bedroom they found a “Do not disturb” sign on his door – a signature that was repeated in last month’s Dubai killing.
Gordon Thomas is the author of ‘Gideon’s Spies’.
Dubai Hamas assassination: profiles of so-called Britons named in plot by authorities
According to the authorities in Dubai 11 people including six individuals posing as Britons and three Irish citizens were involved in the assassination of Hamas chief Mahmoud Mabhouh.
By Martin Evans
Published: 8:30AM GMT 17 Feb 2010
But the Foreign Office has now confirmed that the alleged killers were travelling on fake documents.
Here are profiles of the real people whose identities were used in the plot.
Gail Folliard, Born 16/04/1976, Ireland.
With her blonde hair and striking looks “Miss Folliard” from Ireland was the only female member of the 11 strong assassination team alleged to have carried out the hit on Hamas chief Mahmoud Mabhouh. Her involvement immediately drew comparisons with the 1998 film Ronin starring Natasha McElhone which featured a female Irish terrorist assembling a team of ruthless assassins. But within hours of the Dubai authorities releasing Miss Folliard’s name, date of birth and passport details, it had emerged that no such person existed. The Irish authorities insisted they had never issued a passport to a person of that name and even pointed out that the passport number provided did not fit the correct format. The other two Irish names on the list, Kevin Daveron and Evan Dennings are also thought not to exist and no documents have ever been issued in their names.
Paul John Keeley, Born 10/5/1967, United Kingdom.
According to the authorities in Dubai, Briton Paul Keeley was one of the team of 11 assassins. But when the Daily Telegraph tracked down a Paul Keeley whose details matched those provided, to his home in Israel, he explained his identity had been stolen by those responsible. Originally from Yalding near Maidstone, he moved to Israel around 15-years ago. A self-employed builder, he began living and working at the Naehsholim Hof Kibbutz north of Tel Aviv. He married his Israeli girlfriend Sifa and the couple have two children aged 12 and seven. He also has a 22-year-old son from a previous relationship who lives in the UK. His parents still live in Maidstone but visit him in Israel regularly. The last time they were there was a fortnight ago. Mr Keeley said he has not left Israel since 2008 when he and his family went on a trip to Turkey organised by his Kibbutz.
Melvyn Adam Mildiner, Born 01/04/1978, United Kingdom.
Melvyn Mildiner was also alleged to have been involved in the hit on the Hamas chief, but said he was bewildered when he heard his name had been connected. Born in Stepney, East London in 1978, he emigrated to Israel several years ago. He now lives near Jerusalem and insists he has never travelled to Dubai. He first became aware that his name had been implicated in the killing of Mahmoud Mabhouh when journalists contacted him at home. The 32-year-old said he was still in possession of his passport and had not left the country this year. He said: “I’m looking into what I can do to try to sort things out and clear my name. I don’t know how this happened or who chose my name or why, but hopefully we’ll find out soon.” While the name and passport number released by the Dubai authorities were correct, his date of birth was out by a couple of days he claimed.
The assassins also appear to have used the identity of Briton Jonathan Graham as cover for the attack. Originally from Borehamwood in Hertfordshire Mr Graham moved to Israel three or four years ago. An IT worker he is married with two young children. While in the UK he and his family were regular worshippers at the Borehamwood and Elstree Synagogue near their home. Neighbours remembered them as devoutly religious and very good members of the community. Mr Graham’s parents David and Jacqueline followed their son to Israel around two years ago and have also settled there.
Stephen Daniel Hodes, Born 24/4/1972, United Kingdom.
Stephen Hodes, who was born in Salford, moved to Israel more than a decade ago. But his details were also allegedly used by those planning the attack on Mahmoud Mabhouh. Educated at Grammar school in Manchester, Mr Hodes qualified as a physiotherapist and now works at the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. According to his Friends Reunited page he also acts as physiotherapist for a leading Basketball team in the city. Married with two children, his parents also moved to Israel to be near the rest of the family, several years ago.
Michael Lawrence Barney, Born 13/6/1955, United Kingdom.
Michael Barney was born and brought up in Jewish community of Stoke Newington in North London. He moved to Israel many years ago where he now lives with his family. He has one brother Philip, who has also emigrated to the Jewish State. His details, including name and date of birth were both correct according to the information released by the Israelis but it is not known if the picture bears any resemblance to him.
James Leonard Clarke, Born 23/09/1962, United Kingdom.
James Clarke was born in Horsham, East Sussex, and lived at various addresses in Brighton and Hove before eventually leaving the UK and moving to Israel. Neighbours at his former flat in Brighton confirmed that he had lived there but had left the south coast City some years ago and had not been seen since. It is not known where in Israel he now resides. Again the details used on the fake passport appear to be accurate but it is not known how the assassins gained the information.
Dubai Hamas assassination: ‘Israeli hit-squad’ used fake British passports
By Martin Evans
Published: 8:30AM GMT 17 Feb 2010
Police in Dubai released details of 11 Europeans they believe were involved in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in his hotel room last month.
Six of the accused were travelling on British documents, three on Irish passports, with one French and one German.
But the Foreign Office in London have now said the six British passports were “fraudulent” while the Irish authorities also said the passports used were fake.
One of the British nationals accused of involvement in the assassination has spoken of his anger at his name being used in the operation.
Melvyn Adam Mildiner, 31, who was born in Stepney east London, but moved to Israel several years ago, said he had never even been to Dubai.
He said: “I am obviously angry, upset and scared – any number of things. And I’m looking into what I can do to try to sort things out and clear my name,” he said in a telephone interview.
“I don’t know how this happened or who chose my name or why, but hopefully we’ll find out soon.”
A photo from the fake passport used in his name was released by police in Dubai but did not match a picture on his Facebook page.
He went on: “It’s not me. Which is one silver lining on this entire story because at least I can point to it and say, ‘Look, that’s not me. It’s not the picture that I have in my passport, and it’s not the picture that I have on my face that I walk around with every day.
“I have my passport. It is in my house, along with the passports of everybody else in my family, and there’s no Dubai stamps in it because I’ve never been to Dubai.
Most of the Britons named on the list are believed to be based in Israel with dual nationality.
They were named by the Dubai police as Michael Lawrence Barney, James Leonard Clarke, Jonathan Louis Graham, Paul John Keeley, Stephen Daniel Hodes and Melvyn Adam Mildiner.
The British Foreign Office confirmed that passports had been issued in those names, but said details of the documents released by Dubai were fake.
A spokesman said: “We believe the passports used were fraudulent and have begun our own investigation.”
He added that the British Government had offered assistance to investigators in the city-state.
Officials in Dublin said they had no records of passports being issued under the names of Gail Folliard, Evan Dennings and Kevin Daveron.
Furthermore, the Irish government said the passport numbers publicised by the Dubai authorities appeared to be counterfeits as they had the wrong number of digits and contained no letters.
Al-Mabhouh died in his luxury hotel room near Dubai international airport on January 20. It is claimed he was suffocated.
Hamas has pointed the finger at Israel, blaming Mossad – the country’s secret service – for carrying out the hit, but the Israeli’s have so far refused to comment.
It is alleged that the hit squad flew into Dubai on separate planes and booked into different hotels wearing wigs and fake beards to disguise their appearances.
At least two of the alleged gang watched the Hamas commander check-in to the hotel and booked a nearby room, it was further claimed.
Around five hours after setting foot in the city-state, al-Mabhouh was ambushed and killed.
Hamas assassination: Israeli ambassador must answer questions over fake passports
Published: 11:31AM GMT 17 Feb 2010
Israel’s ambassador should be summoned to the Foreign Office to answer allegations of his country’s involvement in the assassination of a Hamas commander by a hit squad using fake British and European passports, a senior MP demanded today.
Two Britons whose passports were apparently used by the killers, have expressed shock at being caught up in the affair after they were named among 11 suspects identified by Dubai police.
Hamas has pointed the finger at Israel, blaming Mossad – the country’s secret service – for carrying out last month’s hit on Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.
And Dubai’s police chief Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim said it was possible that ”leaders of certain countries gave orders to their intelligence agents to kill” the Hamas man.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, who is also a member of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said the Government should demand an urgent explanation.
”If the Israeli government was party to behaviour of this kind it would be a serious violation of trust between nations,” he said.
”If legitimate British passport holders were put at risk it would be a disgrace.
”Given the current speculation, the Israeli government has some explaining to do and the ambassador should be summoned to the Foreign Office to do so in double-quick time.”
His call came after Tory MP Hugo Swire, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council, demanded a ”full investigation”.
The Foreign Office has said the six British passports involved were ”fraudulent” and officials in Dublin said they had ”issued no passports” in the names of the three people using Irish identities.
It is thought that while details like the names, numbers and dates of birth on the suspect passports matched the originals, the photographs and signatures differed.
There was no immediate response to Sir Menzies’ call from the Israeli embassy or the Foreign Office.