The Palestinian group Hamas has welcomed Britain's decision to expel an Israeli diplomat over 12 fake British passports that were used in January by the assassins of senior Hamas commander Mahmoud-al-Mabhough in Dubai.

On Tuesday, Hamas leader Salah Bardawil said the British decision marked a significant development. “We hope that this level of development will continue, particularly in bringing Israeli leaders who committed crimes against the Palestinian people to court.”

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband had told the House of Commons on Tuesday that there were “compelling reasons” suggesting that Israel was behind the misuse of the British passports.

“Such misuse of British passports is intolerable ... It also represents a profound disregard for the sovereignty of the United Kingdom.” He had asked “a member of the Embassy of Israel be withdrawn from the UK as a result of this affair and this is taking place”. The British Foreign Office also issued a travel advisory to its citizens heading for Israel and the Palestinian territories.

There is a “possibility that your passport details could be captured for improper uses while your passport is out of your control,” the website of the Foreign Office warned.

“The risk applies in particular to passports without biometric security features.”

In Dublin, the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity campaign urged the Irish government to act urgently. “They should now follow the example set by London and expel the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland,” said its chairperson Dr. David Landy.

In his response, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Israel “regretted” Britain's decision on Tuesday to expel its diplomat.

“We attribute great importance to our relations with Britain,” he said in a statement from Brussels. “We have never been given proof that Israel was involved in this affair.” On Wednesday, Israeli public radio said Tel Aviv would replace the expelled diplomat, widely believed to be the head in Britain of Mossad, the Israeli external intelligence agency.

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