Sunday, April 22, 2012

IDF boards ship allegedly smuggling arms to Gaza

(JPost) Commandos from the Navy’s elite unit Flotilla 13 boarded a cargo ship, the HS Beethoven, in the Mediterranean Sea on Sunday night on suspicions it was trying to smuggle weaponry to the Gaza Strip.

The ship, which was flying a Liberian flag, was intercepted by Israel Navy vessels approximately 160 miles from Israel’s coast. Commandos boarded the ship with the captain's consent and began searching cargo containers for weapons.

Searches were still ongoing and IDF officers said that they could continue until Monday morning.

The IDF said that the boarding was part of a routine patrol although its route was likely what raised Israeli alarms regarding the possibility that it was carrying weapons for either Hamas or Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

The HS Beethoven left Beirut on April 20 and was scheduled to arrive in Alexandria, Egypt on Monday evening. Prior to stopping in Lebanon, it had stopped in in Limassol, Cyprus. If the ship was carrying arms, they were likely planned to be smuggled into Gaza via tunnels located along the Philadelphi Corridor between Gaza and Egypt.

Last March, the Navy intercepted another cargo ship called Victoria that was carrying about 50 tons of weaponry and was on its way to Egypt. It was also flying a Liberian flag ship and was headed to Alexandria.

The weapons cache seized on the Victoria included a number of sophisticated radar-guided Iranian anti-ship missiles that were intended for Islamic Jihad.