Het is duidelijk dat de internationale gemeenschap niks tegen de illegale wapensmokkel naar Hamas en Hezbollah onderneemt, en dus neemt Israel terecht zelf actie. Dit zal wel weer als daad van agressie worden neergezet in de media, maar de geschiedenis laat zien dat Israel dit soort daden wel moest plegen om zich te beschermen tegen haar vijanden. Overigens is er volgens Israel geen geweld gebruikt bij de actie (zie ook de IDF verklaring onder het nieuwsbericht).
Israeli commandos storm arms ship from Iran bound for Hezbollah
By Anshel Pfeffer, Amos Harel, and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents, and Reuters
Israeli special forces on Wednesday took control of an Iranian vessel carrying arms intended for Hezbollah in a daring pre-dawn raid not far from Cyprus.
The ship was believed to have set out from Iran and later docked in Yemen and Sudan before sailing through the Suez Canal. Its final destination was believed to be either Syria or Lebanon.
The Antigua-flagged ship was discovered during routine patrols conducted by the Navy, according to a communiqué from the Israel Defense Forces Spokespersons Unit.
After soldiers boarded the freighter ship, they discovered a large cache of arms and ammunition which were concealed in order to appear to be of a commercial nature.
After the initial search on board the ship, the navy towed the freighter to Israel, where it conducted a thorough inspection of the cargo, the IDF said.
Intelligence agencies had surveilled the vessel for a number of days leading up to the raid. The decision to seize the ship was made following a recommendation by top IDF brass and was approved by the country's most senior echelon.
In addition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were kept abreast of preparations for the raid over the course of a few days.
"There were Katyusha (rockets), whose purpose is to hit civilians," Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai told Army Radio.
He did not give any quantities, saying the ship was still being unloaded in Israel and voicing doubt its crew knew munitions were on aboard.
Asked if the weaponry had been earmarked for Hezbollah, Vilnai said: "Yes. It strengthens (the group) and improves its long-range firing capability into Israel."
Netanyahu released a statement Wednesday saying that the weapons found on board the ship were intended to harm Israel's cities and town. The premier hailed the IDF and the Navy for the operation.
Barak praised the capture of the ship. Barak congratulated IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Navy Commander Admiral Eliezer Marom for the ship's seizure.
"This is another success in the endless struggle against attempts to smuggle weapons and military equipment whose goal is to strengthen terrorist elements who threaten the security of Israel," the defense minister said. "I congratulate the IDF troops for the successful operation."
Following the raid, ministers in the diplomatic-security cabinet convened for a special session Wednesday morning, where they were given an intelligence and operational briefing on the details of the seizure.
Before the meeting, the ministers who were summoned were told that the discussion would focus on the latest developments related to the Palestinian Authority. The meeting though was devoted exclusively to the ship's capture.
From all indications, the operation was not brought for cabinet approval prior to its execution. Rather, it is likely that a small forum of a select number of ministers gave the go-ahead.
Foreign Ministry officials on Wednesday launched consultations to determine Israel's public relations stance in explaining the operation and its ramifications to diplomats and the foreign press.
Since the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, last winter's three-week military offensive against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the Navy and the Israel Air Force have conducted routine and extensive patrols and reconnaissance in the Mediterranean and Red Sea.
The military seeks to intercept ships bearing arms intended for Hamas and Hezbollah. As part of these efforts, the Navy has deployed warships through the Suez Canal.
In January 2002, IDF special forces stormed the Karine-A freighter which was carrying 50 tons of weapons loaded on board. The vessel was spotted and intercepted while sailing across the Red Sea.
Israel believes the weapons on the ship were meant to be delivered to Palestinian rejectionist groups in the Gaza Strip.
IDF SPOKESPERSONS ANNOUNCEMENT
November 4th, 2009
Massive Arms Shipment Intended for Hezbollah Intercepted by Israel Navy
An exceptionally large quantity of weapons, rockets, and missiles was uncovered onboard a cargo vessel intercepted by the Israel Navy Special Forces and brought to the Ashdod port.
Dozens of shipping containers found on the ship were carrying numerous weapons and ordnance disguised as civilian cargo among hundreds of other containers onboard.
Israel Naval and Engineering Corps forces are currently unloading the containers and are sorting through the various types of weaponry found onboard.
As part of the Israel Navy's routine activity to maintain security and prevent arms smuggling, a force comprised of naval commandos, missile boats, and intelligence and explosive experts intercepted a cargo vessel bearing the name "Francop", which was flying an Antiguan flag.
The naval commando force boarded the vessel and conducted an initial search. The search was conducted in accordance with the usual search protocols as dictated by International Law.
Following the initial search and after it became clear that the vessel was carrying weapons, the vessel was directed by the Israel Navy to dock at an Israel Navy base in Ashdod in for additional searches and a detailed inspection of the hull's cargo.
It should be emphasized that the Captain of the ship agreed to the search. The Israel Navy conducted all activity without the need for force of any kind.
The weapons found onboard the ship originate from Iran, and were intended to reach the Hezbollah terror organization for use against the State of Israel and its citizens. The weapons uncovered at sea last night constitute a harsh violation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1747 and 1701 that strictly forbid Iran from exporting or trading any form of weapons.
This is a well-known Iranian technique, taking advantage of cargo ships flying different flags in order to smuggle containers loaded with large amounts of highly volatile weaponry to terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah.
The Iranians continue to act deceptively while blatantly ignoring and violating both International Law and UN Security Council decisions. They relentlessly act under the guise and flags of different countries in order to arm and encourage extremist factions that strive to destabilize the Middle East and other regions.
Last night's interception is part of continuous overt and covert IDF operations on various fronts, both near and far. Such operations are vital to maintain Israel's security, to prevent arms smuggling and to counter terror operations.
Following the necessary inspections of the boat, it is expected to be released.
The overnight operation was authorized by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense of the State of Israel.
Commander of the Israel Navy, Maj. Gen. Eliezer Marom, commanded the operation from a forward command cell. The IDF Chief of the General Staff authorized the operation, after the confirmation of intelligence information gathered by the IDF.