JERUSALEM – The British Embassy in Israel said Sunday it is giving new passports to six British nationals whose identities were stolen by the suspects in the slaying of a top Hamas operative in Dubai — a first step toward clearing their names and returning their lives to normal.

The six Britons — and a seventh man whose name appeared on a German passport used by the alleged hit squad — have had their lives thrown into turmoil by the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh last month. The seven, all dual citizens, have expressed anger and confusion and say they were victims of identity theft.

Officials in the United Arab Emirates said Sunday that at least two more fake Irish passports have been linked to the alleged assassins, and urged European investigators to launch full-scale probes into passport fraud.

The methodical stalking and killing of al-Mabhouh in a luxury hotel room — widely blamed on Israel’s Mossad spy agency — has sparked an investigation that has spread across several continents, with investigators probing possible credit card links to U.S.-based banks, and European officials grilling Israeli envoys over fraudulent passports.

Al-Mabhouh’s body was found in his room in Dubai on Jan. 20, and suspicion almost immediately fell on Mossad.

The discovery that the identities used by seven of the suspected killers belonged to Israeli citizens has further fueled suspicions that Mossad carried out the hit. Dubai authorities, who have identified a total of 18 suspects, have said they are virtually certain the Mossad was involved.

With suspicion increasingly falling on Israel, a senior EU diplomat in Brussels warned Sunday the affair would damage the Jewish state’s relations with the European bloc. The official said the passport controversy ”will be harmful for the way Israel is treated by the EU” since it comes on top of strong criticism of Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip last year.

The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

The seven Israelis caught who share names with the suspects have denied any connection with al-Mabhouh’s killing. Pictures of the seven alleged assassins released by Dubai bear little or no resemblance to the true holders of the passports.

One of the Israelis, Jonathan Louis Graham, told the Maariv daily Sunday that he’d never even been to Dubai.

”Clearly, that’s not me — the person whose picture was published,” Graham was quoted as saying. ”I’ve got my passport and I don’t know how this happened, but my identity was stolen. I’m a bit angry about what’s happened, but I’m going to have to cope with that myself.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.