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Zev Barkan, an Israeli spy in NZ linked to Mossad's killing in Dubai

Updated: 08 May 2010
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Read more on Zev Barkan   Israeli spy   Mahmoud al-Mabhouh  

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a senior Hamas military commander, was killed in a Dubai hotel

 

An Israeli spy at the centre of a New Zealand passport scandal has been named as a suspect in the execution of a Hamas commander, as Israel finally restored its diplomatic presence in Wellington.

The new ambassador to New Zealand, Shemi Tzur, dismissed reports yesterday that Zev Barkan was involved in the murder of Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr Barkan was among five new suspects being investigated after the assassination of Mr al-Mabhouh when a team of assassins broke into his five-star Dubai hotel room and silently killed him.

A "Do not disturb" sign was left on the room door. Security camera footage showed the alleged killers sharing a lift with Mr al-Mabhouh before the killing.

Dubai police have blamed the Israeli spy agency, Mossad, for the killing, but Israel denies the charge.

In 2004, prime minister Helen Clark said there was no doubt that Mr Barkan and two others who tried to fraudulently obtain New Zealand passports were Mossad operatives.

The three men were charged, but Mr Barkan eluded capture. Police still have a warrant for his arrest. The other two were jailed and later deported.

Diplomatic relations with Israel were suspended for more than a year, before Israel finally apologised in 2005. The two countries' governments have hailed strong recent progress on their relationship.

The Israeli embassy, which was closed in 2002 for financial reasons, reopened in Wellington late last month and the new ambassador, Mr Tzur, presented his credentials yesterday to Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand.

Mr Tzur, a career diplomat with experience in Middle Eastern peace talks, said the 2004 passport scandal was in the past. "I can tell you now, when I came to New Zealand we were not discussing that. My delegation and in all my meetings, we were talking about how we are building strong ties in many fields that we can co-operate."

Mr Tzur said he was not in a position to comment on the Dubai killing.

However, he had read about the case in the newspapers. "Like many others, I see every second day something come from Dubai – now it's what, I don't know, 100 people [accused] almost."

Victoria University Associate Professor Jim Veitch, an expert on international relations, said the murder of Mr al-Mabhouh was a "major blunder" by Mossad.

Mossad was very active all over the Western world in getting passports and tracking people from the Islamic world.

"The Israelis are just so paranoid about security and protection that they will go to any lengths to make sure that they keep a gap between themselves and those that they perceive to be the enemy," Dr Veitch said.

 

However, it was much better to have the Israeli embassy restored in New Zealand. "Having them here means we can have conversations with them.

"It's just normal that they act in this way. We just have to accept that right now, it's part of what the situation in the world is like."

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said the Israeli Government's 2005 apology over the passport scandal had been accepted and the matter was closed. Thenew embassy in Wellington was welcome.

 

SOURCE: www.stuff.co.nz

 

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