Some US intelligence circles are now suggesting that the high-ranking Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh who died by an unknown hand in Dubai last January was not targeted for death but for capture as a live hostage against the release of Gilead Shalit, the Israeli soldier whom Hamas kidnapped four years ago in a cross-border raid from Gaza and holds without contact with the outside world.
Sunday, June 27, his parents Noam and Aviva Shalit launched a 12-day march to Jerusalem, gathering in many of thousands of supporters to lobby the government for his freedom
World figures, including the French and Italian governments, have demanded Gilead Shalit's immediate release – or at least Red Cross access to Hamas's prisoner.
debkafile cites US intelligence sources as speculating that Mahboub was to have been one of half a dozen high-value Hamas operatives Israel planned to grab in January in different parts of the Middle East as bargaining chips for the Israeli soldier.
As the man in charge of Iran's weapons supplies to Hamas, Mahboub was judged a key lever for obtaining the Israeli soldier's freedom.
Those US sources believe the plan to snatch him from a Dubai hotel went smoothly enough up until the last step. But then, the drugs administered to knock him out appeared to have killed him on the spot. He was meant to be doped enough to let himself be bundled out of the hotel on his two feet in the middle of the team of abductors without drawing attention. According to this theory, the team was to have driven him to Dubai port and put him aboard a waiting yacht, which was to sail off and rendezvous with an Israeli naval missile boat in the Red Sea.
After delivering him, the same team was to have proceeded to its next target.
But whether they gave Mahboub an overdose or whether his health was frailer than believed, he did not survive. The abduction team leader, lacking instructions for this exigency, decided to abort the
mission and leave the dead man in place. He told the would-be abductors to get out of Dubai fast and scatter. The rest of the high-risk, ambitious plan was scrapped.
Had it succeeded, say the US sources, it would have been Israel's biggest abduction operation ever, attesting to the extremely high importance Israel attaches to recovering its soldier from captivity.
The Israel Mossad's hand in the death of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh was widely alleged but never proved. Several governments, Britain, Ireland, Australia among them, expelled the security officials at Israeli embassies from their capitals to protest the use of forged passports.
The negotiations to swap almost a thousand jailed Palestinians for Gilead Shalit stalemated six months ago when the German mediator pulled out.