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Q&A: what do we know so far?

Q. What exactly happened to Mahmoud al-Mabhouh?

A. When the Hamas militant arrived in Dubai, he may have believed he was there to meet an Iranian arms dealer. Six hours later, he was dead after a sophisticated operation involving 18 people. After tailing Mabhouh from the airport, CCTV footage shows two of the group entering a hotel lift with him; one then followed him to find out in which room he was staying. When the target left his room, four men crossed the corridor to break in. Mabhouh returned at 8.24pm; police say he was asphyxiated soon after. His killers left the hotel about 20 minutes later.

Q. Who were the people behind the operation, and why were there so many?

A. One theory suggests that the hit squad had expected him to be accompanied by a security team, who would also need to be eliminated. The identities of the assassins remain a mystery. So far, seven people living in Israel have said that their identities were stolen.

Q. Why would Israel want Mabhouh dead?

A. The Palestinian had admitted to a role in the deaths of two Israeli soldiers in 1989, and he still played a senior role in Hamas. He was said to sit atop a 'hit list' of militants believed to be dangerous to Israel.

Q. If firm evidence emerges implicating Israel, what will the consequences be?

A. The potential for diplomatic fall-out is clear, with Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown demanding an inquiry into how British passports came to be used. Similar concerns have been voiced in Dublin and Paris. Meanwhile, Dubai authorities are furious at the idea of the country being used as a staging ground for assassinations.


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