MabhouhA key security operative of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas was under arrest in Syria tonight on suspicion of having helped an alleged Israeli hit squad identify Mahmoud al-Mabhouh before he was assassinated in Dubai, the Guardian has learned.

Palestinian sources in the Gulf confirmed Nahro Massoud, a Hamas security official, was in detention and under interrogation in Damascus in connection with the 19 January killing, which is now widely assumed to have been mounted by Israel’s Mossad secret intelligence service.

Khaled Mishal, Hamas’s political leader, denied the allegation. “It is not correct at all,” he said, as Hamas sources suggested a disinformation campaign by the group’s Fatah rival. But informed Palestinian sources insisted Massoud was being questioned amid mounting speculation that potentially senior Palestinian defectors may have assisted in the plot.

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