Accessibility links

Breaking News

Britain Expels Israeli Diplomat

Britain has ordered the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat over the use of forged British passports in connection with the assassination of a senior commander of the militant Palestinian group, Hamas in Dubai in January.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband made the announcement before members of parliament.

"I have asked that a member of the embassy of Israel be withdrawn from the UK as a result of this affair," he said.

The expulsion is part of the diplomatic fallout over 12 forged British passports used by suspected assassins of Hamas commander Mahmoud al Mabhouh in a hotel room in Dubai.

Dubai authorities accused Israel's Mossad spy agency of involvement. They identified over two dozen suspects of the alleged hit squad who they say came to Dubai with forged European and Australian passports. Israel has said there is no proof of Israeli involvement.

But David Miliband said that regarding the forged passports, investigations by Britain's Serious and Organized Crime Agency, SOCA, pointed the finger at Israel.

"SOCA came 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. They found no link to any other country," he said.

And, said Miliband, given the sophisticated nature of the operation and the high quality of the forgeries, the British government deems it highly likely that a state intelligence agency was involved.

"We have concluded there are compelling reasons to believe that Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports," he declared.

Miliband called Israel's actions "intolerable," and said he has handed a letter to Israel's foreign minister, seeking assurances this would never happen again.

Israel's ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosor expressed "disappointment" at the expulsion.

"The relationship between Israel and the United Kingdom is of mutual importance. Hence we are disappointed by the British government's decision," he said.

Diplomatic expulsions are a rare form of sanctions orchestrated to send a clear message. Miliband said the fact that a friendly country with close ties to Britain is at the heart of this case "adds insult to injury." Despite this, analysts have said the incident is not expected to have long-lasting damaging effects on relations between the two countries.