JERUSALEM – The names of at least eight new suspects who Dubai police are linking to the slaying of a top Hamas operative match those of people in Israel, further hinting at Israeli involvement in a killing widely thought to be the work of the Mossad spy agency.
Dubai police released the names of 15 new suspects Wednesday, bringing to 26 the number of people suspected in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. In all, at least 15 of the names match those of real people who live in Israel — at least half dual nationals. All of those contacted have said their identities were used without their permission.
Israel has not confirmed or denied involvement in the killing. Israeli security officials say al-Mabhouh was involved in smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip with Iranian help and was wanted in the deaths of two Israeli soldiers who were captured and killed in 1989. Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni has praised the killing as "good news to those fighting terrorism."
Five of the names released Wednesday appear in Israeli telephone directories, and Australia's foreign minister said two other names belong to Australians living in Israel. The minister, Stephen Smith, said that if Israel was behind the killing Australia "would not regard that as the act of a friend." An eighth name, Roy Cannon, matches that of a 62-year-old man who immigrated to Israel from Britain.
Raphael Cannon, his son, told The Associated Press on Thursday that his father had moved to Israel in 1979 and was surprised when an acquaintance saw his name on the Internet on Wednesday.
"It's clear that illegal use was made of personal information," Cannon said. He said the full name and birth date on the forged passport matched his father's, but that his father still has the genuine document in his possession and the photo in the fake one belongs to someone else.
He said his father was not interested in speaking to the press and was not planning to take legal action. "Who are we supposed to contact about something like this?" Cannon said.
The photographs on the passports released by the Dubai police have not matched the people whose names were used, and several countries have said the documents were forged or fraudulently obtained. In some cases the passport numbers or birth dates on the forged passports matched the genuine passports, while other information, like the signature, was changed.
Seven Israelis previously linked to the case were dual nationals, drawing concern from European countries that passports were being misused. The nationalities of the latest names released could not immediately be determined.
So far, no one in Israel or abroad has come forward to identify themselves as the people who appear in the photographs and to assert their innocence, further suggesting the people in the photographs were indeed connected to the killing.
Philip Carr, a 36-year-old technician who immigrated to Israel eight years ago, said Wednesday that he had been surprised to learn that his name and British passport name appeared on the new list of suspects. He said the photograph did not match: "That picture is certainly not me. He's wearing glasses. I've got 20-20 vision."
The other new names that match those of people in Israel's national telephone directory were Adam Korman, Gabriella Barney, Mark Sklar and Daniel Schnur. None could be reached Thursday.
In addition, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said two other names, Nicole Sandra McCabe and Joshua Daniel Bruce, belonged to Australians from Victoria state who currently reside in Israel.
Bruce's mother, Sarah Bruce, said her son has lived for seven years in Jerusalem, where he is studying Judaism. She said she was alerted about the issue by Australian authorities and was "totally shocked" to hear her son had been linked to the case.
"I am fearful, but hopefully everyone will see that it is fraud. It's not his photo in the pictures they're flashing around everywhere," Bruce said from her Melbourne home. She also said it wasn't his date of birth or signature in the Australian passport.
She said she had spoken briefly to Joshua. "He was unaware of everything that was going on," she said.
Some of the new suspects — 10 men and five women traveling on British, French, Irish and Australian passports — were allegedly part of "logistical support" teams that staked out Dubai for months before the Jan. 19 slaying, according to the Dubai police.
Although Dubai's police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, has said he was nearly "100 percent" certain that Mossad masterminded the killing, the new details added at least one incongruous wrinkle: Two of the suspects allegedly left Dubai on a ship bound for Iran, Israel's archenemy, a seemingly unlikely move for alleged Israeli agents.
Iran's government has not commented on that information, which could indicate that Israeli agents moved with ease into Iranian territory using forged passports. While it is widely assumed that Israeli agents have entered Iran in the past, no concrete proof has ever emerged.
The publication of the names has reinforced widespread suspicion about Mossad involvement and has brought sharp complaints from the countries whose passports were used.
Australia, Britain, Ireland and France have all sought clarifications from Israeli diplomats.