The Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Dr Zion Evrony, said today that the decision to expel an Israeli official over the use of fake Irish passports in the assassination of a Hamas official was "regretted".
In a statement Dr Evrony said he had been invited this morning to a meeting with David Cooney, the Secretary General of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs.
“At this meeting, Ambassador Evrony was informed of the decision of the Irish government.
“Israel regrets this decision.
“We believe that it does not reflect the overall positive relations which exist between Ireland and Israel.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin earlier confirmed the expulsion of an official from the Israeli embassy in Dublin over the affair.
Minister Martin said investigations had led to the inescapable conclusion that an Israeli government agency was responsible for the misuse and, most likely, the manufacture of the forged Irish passports associated with the murder of Hamas militant Mahmoud Al Mabhouh.
Top Government officials and Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy had led the investigation into the use of eight fake Irish passports by a Mossad unit in Dubai in January.
Minister Martin said the Government agreed at a Cabinet meeting that, by way of protest at its unacceptable action, Israel be requested to withdraw a designated member of staff of its embassy in Dublin.
“This demand has been conveyed to the Israeli ambassador and I would expect it to be quickly acceded to,” he said.
Mr Martin said he will not give either the name or function of the official whom the Israeli government had been requested to withdraw.
“I want to state clearly that the official concerned is not accused or suspected of any particular wrongdoing,” said Mr Martin.
“In being obliged to leave their post prematurely, the official concerned is a victim of the actions of the State they represent.”
Minister Martin condemned the murder of al Mabhouh, who founded Hamas's military wing.
Several UK and Australian travel documents were also used by the hit squad linked to the assassination.
Both authorities previously ruled that the forgeries were most likely the work of a state intelligence service and that there were compelling reasons to believe that Israel was responsible for the misuse of British passports.
Mr Martin stated: “While our own investigations have discovered no additional evidence linking the Irish passports to Israel, the fact that the forged Irish passports were used by members of the same group who carried the forged British and Australian passports leads us to the inescapable conclusion that an Israeli government agency was responsible for the misuse and, most likely, the manufacture of the forged Irish passports associated with the murder of Mr Mabhouh.”
The minister said that, in contrast to the UK and Australian cases, which involved identity theft in relation to nationals of both countries, those responsible for the forgery of the Irish passports sought to replicate potential valid Irish passport information.
Six of the eight fake passports used the numbers of existing Irish passport holders, while the two remaining passports used numbers conforming to Irish passport number format, although valid passports carrying these numbers were never actually issued.
Some of those travelling on Irish passports were named as Evan Dennings, Kevin Daveron, Gail Folliard, Anna Shauna Clasby, Chester Halvey and Ivy Brinton.
Several Irish citizens were expelled from Tel Aviv in recent weeks after Israeli troops stormed Gaza-bound aid ships and left nine activists dead.
Mr Martin said that, despite disagreeing with some Israeli policies, in particular its occupation of the Palestinian territories, the Government wanted a relationship with Israel which was characterised by mutual trust and respect.
“However, our investigations into the misuse of Irish passports have reached conclusions about the conduct of the Israeli authorities which are profoundly disturbing and which are seriously detrimental to the kind of relationship we would like to have with Israel,” he added.
“I hope that, by the action which I have announced today, both countries will eventually be able to move past this incident and that such unfriendly actions damaging to overall relations are not repeated.”