Mossad assassins believed it was worth getting caught forging Australian passports because they wanted a Hamas leader dead so badly, experts say.
But while the Israeli spy agency's apparent abuse of official Australian documents will "chill" relations between Jerusalem and Canberra, it is unlikely to cause long-lasting damage.
Mossad's apparent assassination of Hamas militant Mahmud al-Mabhuh at a Dubai hotel on January 20 was a high-risk venture: sending 26 agents to a non-friendly country under the passports of friendly nations like Australia, and then carrying out the killing under hotel surveillance cameras.
"Unless this was a gross error of judgement, Mossad must have made an assessment that killing al-Mabhuh was worth the risk that they might get caught," Matthew Gray from ANU's Centre of Arab Islamic Studies told ninemsn.
The incident recalls the botched Mossad attempt to assassinate Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal on Jordanian soil in 1997.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told federal parliament today the Australian Federal Police, Australian Passport Office and ASIO were investigating the possible fraudulent use of passports after three Australians were named among those involved in the Dubai hit.
The others assassins were travelling on British, French and Irish passports.
Police say the Australian passports appeared to have been duplicated or altered.
Mr Smith today summoned Israel's ambassador to a meeting at Parliament House and made public federal government demands that Israel cooperate fully with police.
"Governments go out of their way to make their passports as forgery-proof as possible ... and what Australian authorities are really nervous about is that Israel would use an Australian identity to commit an assassination," Dr Gray said.
But Dr Gray said the diplomatic row set off by this incident is unlikely to extend beyond diplomatic protests.
Al-Mabhuh was allegedly involved in the smuggling of Iranian weapons into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. There is speculation he was in Dubai, where many Iranian banks do business, to close an arms deal.
Israel, following a longstanding policy, declined to comment
Any one who does this sort of thing is no friend of australians in general