On Tuesday, March 15th, IDF Navy fighters intercepted the cargo vessel “Victoria” loaded with various weaponry. The vessel, flying under a Liberian flag, was intercepted some 200 miles west of Israel’s coast. This incident was part of the Navy’s routine activity to maintain security and prevent arms smuggling, in light of IDF security assessments.
The force was met with no resistance from the crew on-board.
The vessel is now being led by the Israeli Navy to an Israeli port for further searches and detailed inspection of the cargo.
The vessel was on its way from Mersin Port in Turkey to Alexandria Port in Egypt.
PM Netanyahu: “Early this morning, I approved the Navy’s interception of the Victoria. We had a solid basis that onboard the ship was weaponry destined for use against Israel. Considerable weaponry – which was destined for terrorist forces in the heart of Gaza – was found onboard the vessel. The operation was carried out at sea in accordance with all international rules. The weaponry originated in Iran, which is trying to arm the Gaza Strip.”
DM Barak: “The attempt to smuggle weaponry to Gaza shows that radical elements are continuing in their attempts to attack Israel and undermine regional stability.”
According to assessments, the various weaponry on-board the vessel was intended for the use of terror organizations operating in the Gaza Strip.
The IDF noted that Turkey is not tied to the incident in any way.
The operation was approved as necessary in accordance with government directives in light of the Chief of the General Staff’s recommendations.
Earlier on March 15th, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz updated the Minister of Defense, Mr. Ehud Barak, about the findings on-board the vessel.
The IDF and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs alerted about the interception of the “Victoria” to the German authorities, due to the German ownership of the ship. In addition, the government of Liberia, whose flag it was flying under, was notified, as well as France, due to the French shipping company.
The operation was under the command of the IDF Navy Commander, Maj. Gen. Eliezer Marom, and the interception was under the command of the Navy Special Forces Commander.
The vessel’s crew and content will be transferred to an Israeli port for questioning and further inspection.
The IDF will continue its intelligence and operational activities in order to maintain Israel’s security interests and prevent arms smuggling that will fuel the terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.
We will keep you posted as more information is released.
Background: Israel’s Inception of Arms Ships
Since 2001, there have been repeated attempts to smuggle weapons under the guise of legitimate commerce, using ships, flags, and ports of blameless countries.
May 2001: The Santorini was intercepted on its way from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip. It contained a large shipment of 40 tons of weapons including Strela anti-aircraft missiles. The shipment also included mortars, rifles and guns, grenades, mines and explosive material, anti-tank RPG-7 missile-launchers, and artillery rockets.
December 2001 – The Karine A vessel, loaded with weapons in Iran, bound for the Gaza Strip, sailed in the direction of Egypt with the intention of unloading its cargo in Egypt. Small fishing boats were meant to pick up the cargo and deliver it to the Gaza Strip. The ship, loaded with rockets, anti-tank rockets, and light arms, was seized on January 3, 2002 by Israeli naval commandos.
May 2003: The Abu Hasan was intercepted in waters west of Haifa, sailing from Lebanon to Egypt carrying Hizbullah explosives bound for the Gaza Strip. The boat itself was a fishing boat, no doubt used purposefully to disguise its intentions. Cargo contained: a radio-activation system to detonate bombs remotely, CDs of directives on how to carry out suicide bomb terror attacks, five boxes with rocket fuses, and 25 Katyusha rocket detonators.
December 2003 - January 2004 – The Iranian Revolutionary Guard directed an aerial convoy to transfer weapons and supplies to Hizbullah via Syria. The aerial convoys were disguised as humanitarian aid intended for those injured in an earthquake in Bam, a city in southern Iran. The Iranians took advantage of the open airspace by trying to smuggle weapons to Hizbullah while humanitarian aid flights were landing in Iran from all over the world.
May 2007 – An Iranian train carrying arms (mortar shells, light arms, rocket launchers and ammunition) was uncovered in Turkey. The arms were destined for Hizbullah. The Iranians attempted to conceal and disguise the arms in order to avoid suspicion by the Turkish authorities.
January 2009 – An arms shipment sent by Iran was intercepted and seized in Cyprus after it was found on the Cypriot vessel Monchegorsk which had been leased by the Iranian Irisl shipping company. The cargo was found to include tank, artillery and mortar shells as well as materials to be used for producing rockets.
October 2009 -The Hansa India, which sailed from Iran flying a German flag was due to unload a cargo of eight containers in Egypt. Following warnings from the German authorities the vessel was not unloaded and continued to Malta where it was seized and found to be carrying bullets and industrial material intended for the production of weapons, seemingly bound for Syria.
November 2009 – Roughly 500 tons of weapons, rockets, and missiles was uncovered aboard the cargo vessel Francop flying an Antiguan flag, which was intercepted and brought to the Ashdod port. Thirty-six shipping containers with 500 tons of weaponry were found on the ship disguised as civilian cargo, and hidden among hundreds of other containers on board.
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