Inside the Middle East
December 30, 2010
Posted: 1154 GMT

Beginning in January, Canadian citizens visiting the United Arab Emirates will have to pay as much as 1,000 Canadian dollars to obtain a visa, according to the website of the UAE Embassy in Ottawa.

This major change in policy is the most recent development in the ongoing altercation between both countries over airline landing rights.

Canadians, who until now have been allowed entry into the UAE without a visa and free of charge, will not only be required to pay for a visa starting next month, they'll also have to apply for one at least 15 days before departure. According to the embassy, Canadians will be charged 250 Canadian dollars for a 30 day visa, $500 Canadian for a three month visa, and $1,000 Canadian for a six-month multiple entry visa. (The Canadian dollar is almost exactly equivalent in currency value to the U.S. dollar.)

At the heart of the dispute are the number of flights per week that UAE airlines are able to make into Canada. The UAE maintains that the current level of six weekly flights for its carriers, Ettihad and Emirtaes, simply doesn't come close to meeting rising demand. Read more...

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Filed under: Abu Dhabi •Dubai •UAE

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May 9, 2010
Posted: 1453 GMT

Take a tour of what's being billed as the first farmers market in the UAE.

Filed under: Dubai •Video

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March 28, 2010
Posted: 824 GMT

CNN's Tracey Holmes reports that Dubai is hoping to make a splash with its new race track for the Dubai World Cup.

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Filed under: Dubai •UAE •Video

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March 23, 2010
Posted: 1246 GMT

London, England (CNN) - Britain has expelled an Israeli diplomat in connection with cloned passports used by suspects in the January killing of a Hamas leader in Dubai, a British government source familiar with the situation told CNN Tuesday.

Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom met with British Foreign Office officials on Monday, the source said.

The expelled diplomat's rank and identity were not released, and the source did not say when the diplomat was expelled.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a founding member of Hamas' military wing, was found dead January 20 in his Dubai hotel room. Police believe he was killed the night before, allegedly by the secretive Israeli foreign intelligence unit Mossad.

Two sources told CNN earlier this month that the number of identified suspects in al-Mabhouh's death was up to 27. Of them, 26 were carrying European or Australian passports, authorities have said.

The sources - an official familiar with the investigation and a police source - did not say which nation issued the passport used by the 27th suspect. Read full story...

Filed under: Dubai •Hamas •Israel •U.K.

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March 8, 2010
Posted: 854 GMT

By CNN's Paula Hancocks

The drip feed of information from Dubai’s police chief has kept the assassination of a Hamas leader in his Dubai hotel room on the front pages for about a month and a half.

Every day, without fail, the newspapers in the United Arab Emirates reserve part of the front page for an update, an opinion – even the tiniest hint of fresh information.

This is likely the intention of Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan. By releasing a tidbit here and there, the story stays alive and the international spotlight stays on Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad, which Khalfan says he is 100 percent sure is behind the hit.

Local newspapers in the UAE reflect the police line – the question of who else may be responsible for the assassination is absent.

It is a far cry from Israel's media, which has moved on. You are hard pressed to find the story in the newspaper these days – let alone on the front page.

Israeli journalists and columnists have had differing opinions on whether Mossad was responsible or not, or whether it even matters as the end result for Israel is the same: One less Hamas official to worry about.

The drip feed of information is also viewed with suspicion and some ridicule. Ma'ariv newspaper described the Dubai police chief's daily revelations as "tales of 1001 nights" and added of Mossad: "It couldn't be that the oft-praised organization ... is being exposed by an Arab in a keffiya like a figure in an American slapstick movie."

But they do say that any publicity is good publicity and that does appear to be the case for Mossad within Israel. Smart entrepreneurs were quick to react and cashed in on an overwhelming increase in demand for Mossad-related memorabilia.

Eran Davidov, marketing manager of, is selling T-shirts with the captions: "Don't mess with the Mossad" and "Mossad's Dubai operation." He said: "This story did something to people, far beyond what we expected."

Rami Igra, a former senior Mossad official tells CNN: "When an event of this kind becomes public knowledge it captures people's imagination, this shows how the Israeli people identify with such a just cause."

And during the recent Jewish holiday of Purim, where the custom is to dress up, there was a new trend in town that copied the security footage released of agents following the Hamas leader before his assassination: Dressing up in tennis gear.

Filed under: Dubai •Hamas •Israel

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March 1, 2010
Posted: 1242 GMT

Jerusalem (CNN) – Dubai's police chief said Sunday the secretive Israeli foreign intelligence unit Mossad "needs to be ashamed" after the January killing of a Hamas leader in a Dubai hotel.

"I am now 100 percent sure that the Mossad is behind the assassination" of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, said Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim. "I used to say 99 percent but now I can say 100 percent."

Al-Mabhouh, a founding member of Hamas' military wing, was found dead in his Dubai hotel room on January 20. Police believe he was killed the night before, and have identified some 26 suspects in his death.

Israel has a stated policy on security matters of neither confirming or denying involvement. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, however, told Israel Army Radio earlier this month, "There is certainly no reason to think that the Mossad and not some other intelligence agency of another country operated there."

Lieberman has also said only "media reports" link Israel to the slaying.

Asked about the case on Saturday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak repeatedly refused to make any comment.

"You know me long enough to assume that when I tell you I have nothing to say about this story, I have nothing to say, and I will not say," Barak told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

"The Mossad needs to be ashamed of its actions," Tamim said Sunday. "They sent 26, 27 persons to assassinate one man who was involved in the capturing and killing of two Israeli solders." Hamas has said al-Mabhouh was behind the 1989 deaths of the two soldiers.

Earlier Sunday, police said toxicology results showed that al-Mabhouh was injected with succinylcholine, a drug used to relax muscles during surgery or as an anesthetic, before he was suffocated. Signs indicated that al-Mabhouh resisted as he was being suffocated, police said.

Family members were told earlier that police had found blood on a pillow. Authorities have also said the killers left some of al-Mabhouh's medication next to him in an apparent effort to make the death appear natural.

But "the medication left next to him in the room has nothing to do with the killing," Tamim said Sunday.

However, authorities have recovered evidence including DNA, he said. "The DNA evidence is quite important and will help us with the investigation."

The 26 suspects are believed to have acquired false passports to travel to Dubai for the killing, then scattered to several far-flung locations afterward.

But "not all the 26 people have forged passports," Tamim said Sunday. "We know some of the names are real."

The 26 do not include two Palestinians previously arrested in Jordan and returned to Dubai. Tamim said one is not believed to be directly involved in al-Mabhouh's death, but "he is wanted by one of the Palestinian factions in the Palestinian territories and he is sentenced to death and that's why we will extradite him." He refused to discuss anything about the other Palestinian.

Twelve of the suspects used British passports, police said. Six suspects used Irish passports, four used French passports, three used Australian passports and one used a German passport.

On Sunday, the British Embassy in Israel said it plans to talk to the British nationals whose identities were stolen and passports were used.

"We have made contact with six of the individuals and look to locate the remaining six for the fraudulent use of their identities," an embassy official said Sunday.

The meetings will take place at the embassy, the UK Serious Organised Crime Agency said.

"We are arranging to speak to them as potential witnesses to a crime," a spokesman for the agency said.

Tamim said Dubai does not plan to restrict travel in the wake of al-Mabhouh's death. He said al-Mabhouh entered the country under a false name and was not reported as being wanted by Israel. "If we knew that he was a wanted man and that he was coming to the UAE, we would not have allowed him in."

He said Dubai bears no ill will toward Israel or the Jewish people, "but we hate the hands, any hands that are covered with blood, whether they were Arab, Jewish or Muslim."

CNN's Caroline Faraj, Saad Abedine, Per Nyberg and Guy Azriel contributed to this report.

Filed under: Dubai •Hamas •Israel

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February 26, 2010
Posted: 513 GMT

By Paula Hancocks

The line of questioning has changed. It's no longer the speculation on whether Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad was behind the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room last month.

There are now 26 people suspected of involvement in the killing of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in addition to two people in Dubai police custody.
There are now 26 people suspected of involvement in the killing of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in addition to two people in Dubai police custody.

The question now, certainly on the lips of journalists, is why does it take at least 26 people to kill one man traveling without a bodyguard?

Fifteen more suspects named by Dubai police Wednesday, although the passports are fraudulent and the names "borrowed."

Dubai's police chief has said he is 99 percent sure Mossad is responsible and that seems good enough for most people. Let me caution though, while not revealing personal opinion, that an arms dealer would likely have enemies.

Trips to Dubai by some suspects for planning purposes started almost a year ago, according to police. They say suspects traveled through eight different countries, including two on Australian passports who left Dubai on a ship to Iran, according to police.

The diagram for the travel routes of the operation stage look like a complicated family tree. The suspects between them covered 10 countries, credit cards were used by 14 different suspects, identities stolen from five different nationalities… again according to Dubai police.

The target – one man who appeared to be in transit, who went shopping for shoes and who had no security.

That's not to make him sound harmless. Hamas has admitted he was behind the kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers in 1989 and Israeli security sources tell me he was a key link between Hamas and Iran when it comes to smuggling arms into Gaza.

But such a huge team still seems excessive to a layman like me who is not privy to the usual etiquette of international assassinations.

This is one of the first times we have been given such an accessible peephole into the murky world of alleged hitmen and women. Maybe that’s why the appetite for details no matter how mundane or distasteful is so great.

A first but maybe also a last. This world of technology we live in as proved by Dubai police could deter the next old-fashioned hit squad picked up on security cameras every step of the way – no matter how good the disguises or how powerful the sponsor.

Filed under: Dubai •Hamas •Israel

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February 17, 2010
Posted: 1040 GMT

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) - Dubai authorities issued an international arrest warrant Tuesday for suspects in last month's slaying of a top Hamas official, according to a written statement.

Police Monday identified 11 people - 10 men and a woman - suspected in the killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a founding member of Hamas' military wing who had survived at least three other attempts on his life. Al-Mabhouh was killed in his hotel room January 19 hours after he arrived in Dubai from Syria.

Dubai Deputy Attorney General Issam Issa Homeidan said in a statement the warrant was issued "against all the killers of Mabhouh since they committed a premeditated murder on Dubai soil."

The warrant was issued based on United Arab Emirates law and treaties with the suspects' countries of origin, the statement said. "The UAE has an agreement with these nations to hand over any criminal once they are arrested."

Dubai police said Monday the 11 suspects had valid European passports - one from France, three from Ireland, six from Britain, and one from Germany.

But the British Foreign Office said in a statement Tuesday: "We believe the passports used were fraudulent and have begun our own investigation."

The office said it has offered its "assistance and support" to the investigatators in Dubai.

And the Irish Foreign Ministry said it "was unable to find any record of Irish passports having been issued with details corresponding to the details published today in a number of UAE newspapers.

"We are in ongoing contact with the UAE authorities to try to ascertain the exact facts of the case," ministry spokesman Derek Lambe said in a statement. "To date, we have received no evidence that any Irish nationals were involved."

The French Foreign Ministry said it "is not in position to confirm the authenticity of the French identity document that would be held by one of the suspects in this case."

According to police, the suspects arrived in Dubai the day before the killing. Five of them carried out the crime while the remaining six served as lookouts, police said.

Police identified a man from France as the logistical mastermind. Police allege the man stayed at a luxury hotel in Dubai, but also booked a room at the al Bustan Rotana hotel where al-Mabhouh was killed. The French suspect requested room 237 - directly across from where al-Mabhouh was staying in room 230, police say, but the suspect apparently never stayed there. Instead, police say the rest of the group used the room to plot the killing and the alleged mastermind left the country before it was carried out.

Footage on security cameras at Dubai International Airport show one of the suspects following al-Mabhouh after he landed, police said. Two others followed him once he arrived at the hotel, police said, taking the same elevator and ensuring al-Mabhouh was staying in room 230.

Police said they believe the suspects entered al-Mabhouh's room about 8 p.m. local time after the hotel cleaning crew finished their rotation on the floor, using an electronic device to gain entry.

Al-Mabhouh entered his room at 8:25 p.m., hotel security cameras and an electronic read-out of his room key show. Police say the killing took no more than ten minutes before the suspects left the room and headed immediately to the airport where they boarded flights to various cities in Europe and Asia, police said.

Before leaving, police said, the group took great care to make sure the room looked orderly, removing anything that might indicate a struggle. The suspects also deliberately turned the safety lock on the room door from the inside in order to suggest the death was normal, police said.

Police did not provide details about the nature of the killing in their statement Monday, but authorities have told al-Mabhouh's family that there were signs of five or six electric shocks on his legs, behind his ears, on his genitals and over his heart. Blood on a pillow led police to believe he was suffocated.

Dubai authorities started investigating immediately, Homeidan said in the statement Tuesday, and ordered an autopsy be conducted on al-Mabhouh. A number of witnesses have been interviewed. The investigation was ongoing, he said, and more details will be forthcoming.

On Monday, Dubai police chief Dahi Khalfan said in a statement that, "The United Arab Emirates does not accept the notion that its land can be used as a battlefield for settling scores no matter what the causes or affiliations of these involved perpetrators can be."

He warned that anyone who tries to "tamper with the country's security or the safety of any resident or visitor of its community will be subject to prosecution and accountability."

At al-Mabhouh's funeral in January in Damascus, Syria, where he spent the last years of his life, mourners speculated that Israel's intelligence unit, Mossad, was behind the assassination. Al-Mabhouh was behind the kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers in 1989, according to Hamas.

Israeli security sources have told CNN that al-Mabhouh was a key link between Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas and he was involved in smuggling arms to Gaza. The same sources also pointed out an arms dealer could have many enemies, not just Israel.

Israel has a stated policy on security matters of neither confirming nor denying involvement.

Just after al-Mabhouh died, Hamas said in a statement his death was an "assassination." Government officials in Israel declined to comment on that statement.

CNN's Saad Abedine contributed to this report.

Filed under: Dubai •Hamas

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February 10, 2010
Posted: 1003 GMT

By Caroline Faraj, CNN

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) - The tallest skyscraper in the world, Burj Khalifa, has temporarily closed its 124th floor observation deck to the public due to power supply problems.

The Burj Khalifa tower is lit by fireworks during its opening ceremony on January 4.
The Burj Khalifa tower is lit by fireworks during its opening ceremony on January 4.

"Due to unexpected high traffic, the observation deck experience at the Burj Khalifa, At the Top, has been temporarily closed for maintenance and upgrade," building owner Emaar Properties said in a statement.

"Technical issues with the power supply are being worked on by the main and sub-contractors, and the public will be informed upon completion." The deck was closed on Sunday, the statement said.

However, the statement did not clarify when the deck, which has been opened to the public since January 5, will reopen.

"Guests who hold valid tickets to the experience will be offered the option to re-book or receive an immediate refund. All ticket holders who wish to re-book shall be given top priority."

CNN Arabic

The Burj Khalifa opened January 4 and was named for the current president of the United Arab Emirates.

According to the building owners, more than 12,000 people will live and work in the mixed-use tower comprising luxurious apartments, prime office space and the world's first Armani Hotel.

The temporary closure of the observation deck comes amid Dubai's fight to revive its international reputation and image as a cutting-edge Arab metropolis after struggling to repay more than $80 billion in debt.

In recent weeks, thousands of tourists have lined up for the chance to buy tickets that cost $27 apiece. Visitors wanting to enter immediately can jump to the front of the line by paying about $110 each.

The, $1.5 billion Burj Khalifa has a height of more than 800 meters (2,625 ft). There are 160 stories, the most in any building in the world. It was designed by Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, and constructed by high-rise experts from South Korea's Samsung Corporation, while the New York-based Turner Construction International is the project and construction manager.

Filed under: Dubai

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February 9, 2010
Posted: 834 GMT

By Paula Hancocks, CNN

February 8

Dubai, UAE (CNN) - A shadowy figure murdered in his Dubai hotel room by a hit squad that the police say operated with European passports. It sounds like the plot of a John Le Carré spy novel, but this is reality and the hunt is on for the killers of top Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

Retracing his footsteps, here's the picture that emerges: al-Mabhouh landed at Dubai International airport on the afternoon of January 19. Then, a short drive to his hotel, the al Bustan Rotana, where just hours later he would be killed.

Dubai police say he was not traveling under his real name, so the hotel staff would have been unaware he was one of the founding members of Hamas' military wing and was wanted by Israel for more than 20 years.

According to family members, he booked a room on the first floor, making sure there was no balcony and that the windows were sealed so no one could enter.

His brother in Gaza tells CNN he never ate or drank in a hotel or on a plane as he knew he was a target. Dubai police say he then left the hotel, returning around 9:30 p.m. They want to know where he was during that time and, crucially, who he met.

Dubai police refused to talk to CNN, but they told al-Mabhouh's family there were signs of five or six electric shocks on his legs, behind his ears, on his genitals and heart. Blood on a pillow led police to believe he was suffocated.

Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan, Dubai's chief of police, has told local media they are looking for a professional gang, many of whom held European passports.

It's believed they left the country even before al-Mabhouh's body was discovered. Dubai police are working closely with Interpol to track the killers and have publicly voiced surprise that such a figure within Hamas was traveling without his own security.

At al-Mabhouh's funeral in Damascus, Syria, where he spent the last years of his life, few doubted Israel was behind the assassination.

At his family home in Gaza there is the same conviction that Israel's intelligence unit, Mossad, was responsible.

His brother Farq al-Mabhouh said: "If you know the purpose of his visit to Dubai then you know the result of 90 percent of the investigation. Some in Hamas say Dubai was a stop off for a third country he was traveling to."

The brother also claims al-Mabhouh ran a textile company, in addition to his Hamas duties, and that he may have been in Dubai for that reason.

Al-Mabhouh's father, Abed al-Rauf, told CNN: "There was an attempt to kill him in Lebanon and he survived, two other attempts in Syria and he survived. Israel has been after him for the past 22 years."

His mother, Fatima agreed, saying she has been expecting him to be assassinated for years.
Israel certainly has good reason to put him on its most wanted list. Al-Mabhouh was behind the kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers in 1989.

Israeli security sources tell CNN al-Mabhouh was a key link between Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas and he was involved in smuggling arms to Gaza. The same sources also point out an arms dealer could have many enemies, not just Israel.

As is its policy on security matters like these, Israel will neither confirm nor deny any involvement in al-Mabhouh's death.

Analysts point to two benefits from this policy: there can be no international repercussions if there is no admission and even if Israel is falsely accused of an assassination, it can only help Mossad's reputation of being able to hit a target wherever and whenever it chooses.

But Mossad has had its public failures. An attempt to poison Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in Jordan in 1997 led to the capture of two Mossad agents. The late King Hussein then forced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to send the antidote to save Mashal's life and to release Hamas' spiritual leader, Sheik Yassin. A few years later, Yassin was assassinated by Israel in Gaza.

Dubai police have said Mossad could be behind this killing on their territory and has warned Hamas and Mossad to stay away. But the evidence is not compelling yet to lay official blame.

Filed under: Dubai •Hamas •Israel •Video

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