Analysts and defense officials in Israel say that Mahmoud Mabhouh, who was found dead in his room in a Dubai luxury hotel on Jan. 20, was the point man for transferring weapons from Iran to Gaza.
Israel declined official comment on Sunday following news of the assassination in Dubai of a key Hamas operative. But analysts and defense officials here say that Mahmoud Mabhouh, who was found dead in his room in a luxury hotel on Jan. 20, was the point man for transferring weapons from Iran to Gaza, and has long been wanted by Israel following his involvement in the kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers more than 20 years ago.
Hamas officials in Gaza announced this weekend that although Mr. Mabhouh's death originally appeared to be a heart attack, they discovered evidence indicating that he was assassinated by Israeli agents.
A top analyst at the Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) says that Mabhouh was considered extremely important to Israel on several levels. Moreover, Mabhouh's killing follows the assassination nearly two years ago of a key Hizbullah operative, Imad Mughniyah, notes Ephraim Kam, the deputy director of the INSS.
"Mabhouh was involved in the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, and he was responsible for the delivery of arms from Iran to Hamas, so there's no question he was important," Dr. Kam says. "A third point to recognize is that this event deters Hamas and Hizbullah. Especially after the killing of Mughniyah, which Hizbullah threatened to avenge but did not, this sends a red light to senior commanders of Hizbullah and Hamas. Essentially, if they attack Israel, they're not safe anywhere."
"Each organization will say they have men ready to replace him," Kam adds, but nonetheless, there will be a gap in operations following such a loss.