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Dubai assassination spotlights top cop skills in a modern-day Casablanca

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At 3:48 p.m. on Jan. 19, he walked into the lobby of the Al Bustan Rotana hotel. Less than five hours later, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, cofounder of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the paramilitary wing of Hamas – would be dead.

As the liaison between Hamas and Iran for weapons-smuggling operations into Gaza, Mr. Mabhouh had a lot of enemies: He was wanted in Israel for the 1989 kidnapping and killing of two soldiers; he was loathed by members of Hamas’s rival Palestinian faction, Fatah; and Jordanian intelligence was looking for him. Egypt, where he spent all of 2003 in jail, also wanted him. The man had survived several assassination attempts.

But while many might have wished him dead, Dubai police say the evidence points to Israel as being behind his murder.

A modern Casablanca

As details of this killing have been carefully assembled by the Dubai police force, the case has triggered global curiosity and incredulity. It has pulled the curtain back on what is widely assumed to be Israeli spycraft, leaving the heralded Mossad spies looking more like Maxwell Smart than sophisticated players in a John le Carré novel. Does it really take 27 agents in cheap wigs and fake beards to kill one Hamas smuggler?

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