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Delhi 'declines' Israel help to battle rebels

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By JAYANTH JACOB WITH INPUTS FROM THE TIMES, LONDON
  • Published 28.11.08
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Nov. 28: Israel today said it had offered all possible help to deal with the Mumbai terror attack but India hadn’t come up with any concrete proposal or request.

Accepting Israeli help on a matter as sensitive as a terror attack would be politically thorny for any Indian government, angering large sections of the public and many political parties.

After Delhi’s apparent rebuff, Israeli defence officials in Tel Aviv criticised India’s handling of the rescue operations, saying the security forces had risked hostages’ lives by prematurely storming the besieged hotels.

“When our (Israeli) foreign minister called up Pranab Mukherjee, all possible help was offered to India. But no special request has come from the Indian side,” a spokesperson for the Israeli embassy here said.

The embassy officials confirmed that Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife — Israeli nationals held hostage at the Nariman House Jewish centre — had been killed. It wasn’t clear, though, if Tel Aviv thought the hostages might have been saved with a more efficient operation by Indian troops.

The embassy spokesperson said Tel Aviv was “concerned with the situation and sad news of loss of lives. But we have complete faith in the Indian security forces and the government to deal with the situation.”

However, officials from Israel’s security forces told The Jerusalem Post that the Indian counter-terrorist forces were well trained but had failed to gather sufficient intelligence before engaging the terrorists.

“In hostage situations, the first thing the forces are supposed to do is assemble at the scene and begin collecting intelligence,” said a former official in Shin Bet, the Israeli security agency.

“In this case, it appears that the forces showed up at the scene and immediately began exchanging fire with the terrorists instead of first taking control of the area.”

Seventeen commandos had been dropped on the roof of Nariman House from helicopters while snipers peppered the building with covering fire.

Israel defence minister Ehud Barak had earlier expressed concern about the safety of the Israeli hostages.

The Post reported that Barak had offered India’s national security adviser, M.K. Narayanan, any assistance possible, humanitarian or professional.

FBI team hint

The US is sending an “investigative” team to Mumbai but no official has spoken on record of either its composition or if New Delhi has given permission for the team to be part of the joint investigative efforts, PTI reported.

“The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) is sending a team to Mumbai as we speak. It’s a team out of the Los Angeles office. This is not a full team, like we would normally see. It’s going to be an investigative team,” PTI quoted Mike Brooks, formerly of the FBI and now an analyst, as saying on CNN.

“Americans were targeted, they will send in investigators, a basic investigative team, but they also are sending a bomb tech to act as an adviser and also an adviser with the evidence response team.”