Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the Hamas
in Dubai, used the same tradecraft - fraudulent passports and disguises - as his killers during secret missions to procure arms for the group, a confidant said on Thursday.
From shooting at a car that drove repeatedly past his home in Syria
- he later discovered it belonged to Syrian minders - to shunning room service in hotels, the Hamas arms procurer took his personal security very seriously.
"He used to wear colored contact lenses and dye his hair when travelling to European countries," said the confidant, who is based in the Gaza Strip, an enclave run by Hamas Islamists. He told Reuters he spent two years in exile with Mabhouh.
"He used to supply money and arms to Hamas and other allied factions," the confidant said.
"He had many passports of different nationalities - all Arab," he added. "Recently he underwent surgery to reshape his nose. It became narrower."
Mabhouh was killed last month in his hotel room in what Dubai police say they are almost certain was a hit by Israel's Mossad spy agency. Israel has neither denied nor confirmed it assassinated him.
Dubai authorities have named 26 alleged members of the team that tracked and killed the Palestinian and said they used fraudulent British, Irish, French, German and Australian passports, and disguises.
People with the same names of many of the suspects live in Israel and say their identities were stolen. The passport abuse has drawn criticism from the European Union and some of the governments involved have summoned their Israeli ambassadors.
Dubai police have not commented officially on the passport Mahbouh used to enter the emirate. Mabhouh's brother said the Hamas commander arrived in Dubai on a Palestinian passport that listed his family name as Hassan.
"(Mabhouh) never led a normal life. He was suspicious, careful, and he never told anyone, not even his wife, of his future or immediate plans," the confidant said, adding that Mabhouh used Arab passports to enter European countries because they aroused less suspicion.
The West shuns Hamas over its refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence.
The confidant said Mabhouh was constantly travelling, booking his tickets himself at travel agents or over the Internet, but had not visited Iran in the past three years. Some sources in Hamas listed Iran and Sudan as sources of arms smuggling.
Both Hamas and Iran have acknowledged Tehran's financial support for the group, while stopping short of confirming Israel's belief that this includes bankrolling arms smuggled to the Gaza Strip.