4 Nov 2009
A special Israel Navy force intercepted and boarded a ship 100 miles off the coast of Israel. The ship, carrying the flag of Antigua, was carrying weapons under civilian disguise.
Weapon carrying ship intercepted by naval force in Ashdod port (Photo: Reuters)
(Communicated by the IDF Spokesperson)
On Tuesday (November 3, 2009) a special naval force detained and boarded a merchant ship carrying the flag of Antigua about 100 miles west of the coast of Israel.
Following an initial inspection, which determined that it was carrying a significant amount of weapons disguised as civilian cargo, the weapons-loaded ship was directed to an Israeli port so as to enable further searches on board and a detailed inspection of the cargo.
The IDF Spokesperson said that after the ship was boarded and checked, it was taken into Israel to conduct a detailed inspection of the cargo.
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. The Israel Navy force which intercepted the ship included naval commandos, missile boats, intelligence and explosive experts.
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. Israel Naval and Engineering Corps forces are currently unloading the containers and are sorting through the various types of weaponry found aboard.
106 mm rockets found in the Francop's cargo (Photo: Reuters)
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 the Israeli Ashdod Naval base 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 any force. Following the necessary inspections of the boat, it is expected to be released.
The weapons found onboard the ship originate from Iran, and were intended for the Hizbullah 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 Hizbullah.
The Francop cargo ship, intercepted by the Israel Navy. Inspection of its
containers, including many marked IRISL (Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping
Lines) revealed munitions and rockets concealed behind ordinary cargo
(Photos: IDF Spokesperson)
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.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the weapons found on board the ship were intended to harm Israel's cities and towns. Moreover, he hailed the operation congratulating the army the navy, and other security agencies involved on the successful counterterrorist operation.
President Peres stated: "The IDF today successfully intercepted a ship that was apparently en route from Iran to Syria and Hizbullah. Although all the parties deny it, the entire world is today witness to the wide gap between what Syria and Iran say and what they in fact do. The actions of Iran and Syria contradict all international law. Both Iran and Syria are continuously arming the terrorist organizations, first and foremost Hizbullah and Hamas, and are clearly working to undermine peace in the Middle East. The interception of the arms ship is of the highest importance in military terms, but also has political importance. No one can argue with facts. This is an important achievement for the army and for the entire State of Israel."
The Minister of Defense Ehud Barak praised the IDF for their outstanding effort in combating weapon smuggling. "This is another success in the struggle against attempts to smuggle weapons by terrorist organizations who threaten the security of Israel," he said.
The Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Army Radio this morning that "We must salute the intelligence community and the IDF for the operation. Rarely is the public aware of the successful operations undertaken." He added that the weapons were destined for Hizbullah and that Katyusha rockets were amongst the weapons in the vessel.
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.
It should be emphasized that last night's operation was part of continuous overt and covert IDF operations on various fronts, both near and far intended to maintain Israel's security by preventing arms smuggling. IDF forces and the Israel Navy conduct routine intensive operations for security purposes, in order to combat terror and to prevent arms smuggling on various fronts, and the seizure of the ship was carried out as part of this ongoing routine activity.
The largest ship previously intercepted by Navy forces was the Karine A vessel in 2002. The vessel carried tons of weapons from Iran intended to reach the Gaza Strip.
Since the conclusion of the Second Lebanon War, Iran has intensified efforts to establish itself as the leader of the radical axis. These efforts are manifested in ongoing, wide-scale weapon transfers to Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas, as well as financial assistance, training and more. By providing hostile factions with these weapons, Iran substantially enhances their capabilities, improving their arsenals both qualitatively and quantitatively.
The Quds Force, which is affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, is responsible for Iran's international operations. The force, which answers directly to the Iranian leader, has developed numerous methods of transferring weapons and supplies, relying on aerial, naval and ground channels.
* * *
1. Events in which Iranian attempts to smuggle arms have been uncovered
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.
Weapons taken from the Karin A vessel (Photo: IDF Spokesman)
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.
Cypriot vessel Monchegorsk (Photo: IDF Spokesman)
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.
The Hansa India-seized in Malta (Photo: IDF Spokesperson)
2. UN Resolutions limiting Iranian export and arms trade
Excerpts from original text
UN Security Council Resolution 1737 (December 23, 2006):
"Decides that Iran shall not export any of the items in documents S/2006/814 and S/2006/815 and that all Member States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran."
UN Security Council Resolution 1747 (March 24, 2007):
"Decides that Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related material, and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran."
UN Security Council Resolution 1803 (March 24, 2008)
"Calls upon all States, in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, in particular the law of the sea and relevant international civil aviation agreements, to inspect the cargoes to and from Iran of aircraft and vessels, at their airports and seaports, owned or operated by Iran Air Cargo and Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, provided there are reasonable grounds to believe that the aircraft or vessel is transporting goods prohibited under this resolution or resolution 1737 (2006) or resolutions 1747 (2007);"
UN Security Council Resolution 1835 (September 27, 2008)
"Reaffirms the statement of its President, S/PRST/2006/15, of 29 March, and its resolution 1696 (2006) of 31 July 2006, its resolution 1737 (2006) of 23 December 2006, its resolution 1747 (2007) of 24 March 2007, and its resolution 1803 (2008) of 3 March 2008…"
Seizure of Iran Weapons Shipment Shows Proof of Ongoing Terrorism Support
Background: Iran's Sponsorship of Terrorism across the Globe
Photos of Israeli naval force intercepting ship with 500 tons of arms (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
A cargo ship filled with tons of Iranian weaponry en route to Iran-backed terror groups that was intercepted Tuesday (Nov. 3) 100 miles (161 km) from Israel’s coast provides further evidence of the Islamic Republic’s status as the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. The ship, carrying hundreds of tons of advanced weaponry and missiles, including Katyusha rockets, assault rifles, mortar shells, grenades, and anti-aircraft platforms, was to be delivered to the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday (Nov. 5) said Iran’s attempted shipment of arms to terrorists – and the Islamic Republic’s intent to kill Israeli civilians -- was a war crime the UN Security Council should investigate. “Their goal was… to kill as many civilians as possible," Netanyahu said. The weapons shipment also constitutes yet another breach of UN Security Council resolutions 1747 and 1701, which forbid the Islamic Republic from exporting or trading weapons.
Also on Nov. 3, Israeli military intelligence revealed that the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hamas successfully tested a rocket with a range of up to 37 miles (60 km), which places Israel’s second largest city Tel Aviv within firing range. Hamas also possesses other Iranian-manufactured rockets like the Fajr-3, which has a range of up to 29 miles (47 km).
Since 2001, Iran-backed terrorist groups have fired over 12,000 rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel. Hezbollah launched over 4,000 rockets into Israel in 2006 during Israel’s defensive war against Hezbollah, also known as the Second Lebanon War, and has stockpiled more than 20,000 rockets in southern Lebanon since the end of the war.
Following is important background information about Iran’s financial support of terrorism worldwide.
Iran: Leading State Sponsor of Terror Across the Globe
Iran is widely recognized as the world's leading state sponsor of international terrorism. Both directly and indirectly, Iran funds, trains and arms groups that share the regime's stated goal of destroying Israel and the West, as well as overthrowing regimes in Muslim countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. These groups include Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Iran also provides support to insurgent groups in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan which have inflicted casualties on American, British, Australian and other multinational forces.
Iran is expanding its terror network beyond the Middle East, using Hezbollah and splinter groups of Iran's Revolutionary Guard to recruit and train sleeper cells in foreign countries. The terror network that Iran has created and continues to sustain, combined with the regime's determination to become a nuclear power, is a serious international security issue and a growing global concern.
FBI officials have also noted that Hezbollah has a sizeable presence in the United States, and suspects that Hezbollah may be planning to activate sleeper cells in the New York City area.
Iran poses different threats to nations and regions across the globe.
The terrorist group Hezbollah, which operates primarily out of Lebanon, is one of Tehran's primary weapons against Israel and Western interests in the region. Iran helped found, organize and train Hezbollah and gives the group over $200 million a year, in addition to an estimated $300 million after the war with Israel in 2006. It also continues to provide arms to the group, despite the demands of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.
Since Israel’s defensive war against Hezbollah in 2006, Iran has replenished Hezbollah's arsenal of artillery rockets, and has supplied more advanced anti-tank weapons and surface-to-air missiles. At least 4,500 Hezbollah operatives have received intensive training from Iran. In August 2009, Egypt intercepted a group of Hezbollah militant cells planning the assassination of Israel's ambassador to Egypt, as well as its link to another group planning on targeting Israeli tourists to Jordan. That same month, Egypt was hit by a barrage of mortars launched by militant Islamic groups in Gaza.
Iran also supports Palestinian terror groups opposed to a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. From 1993-2006, Iran provided approximately $30 million in annual subsidies to Hamas. Since Hamas’ electoral victory in 2006, Iran has transferred several hundred million dollars annually to Hamas. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has trained approximately 950 Hamas terrorists in rocket and bomb construction, tactical warfare, weapons operation and sniper tactics.
Iran also provides the vast majority of Hamas’ weaponry. Since Israel’s defensive Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Iran has supplied Hamas with advanced weaponry, including dozens of Iranian-produced 122mm Grad rockets which have significantly increased the range of Hamas’ rocket arsenal. During the operation, the Iranians claimed that more than 70,000 Iranian college students from universities throughout Iran volunteered to serve as suicide bombers to carry out attacks against Israel. The rush of volunteerism came after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered a religious decree stating that anyone who carried out an attack against Israel on behalf of Palestinians in Gaza would be considered a martyr.
In 2002, the Israeli Navy intercepted "Karin A," a ship carrying 50 tons of advanced weaponry and rockets supplied by Iran and Hezbollah that was bound for Palestinian terrorist groups through Gaza's waterway.
In Iraq, Iran has fomented violence by giving insurgents about $3 million monthly and providing arms and training for them. Iranian-supplied explosively formed penetrators (EFP's) are a serious concern for U.S. soldiers; the weapons were responsible for 18 percent of U.S. combat deaths in the last quarter of 2006, and 30 percent in -dominated areas. In July 2007, Iran planned an operation that killed five American servicemen, according to the U.S. Army. Shia groups now use Fajr-3 rockets bearing the markings of Iran's Revolutionary Guard dated 2007, and Hezbollah also uses the Fajr-3. Attacks on U.S. bases have included the use of these rockets as well. Iran has sought to provoke sectarian violence in Iraq, and to that end, arms Sunni groups as well. Iran has sent revolutionary guard units to Iraq to train Shia militia fighters, and sent explosive-laden motorcycles across the border.
Iran arms the Taliban's campaign against NATO forces and civilians in Afghanistan even as it publicly supports Hamid Karzai’s government. Iran provides the Taliban with 107mm mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, C-4 explosives and small arms. Iran also gave the Taliban surface-to-air missiles, which they use against British troops. Iran is the main supporter of Hekmatyar, a major warlord and drug trafficker.
Europe and beyond
Europe serves as a popular location for Hezbollah operatives to conduct fundraising activities, accruing an estimated $198 million a year. E.U. officials have identified 900 Hezbollah terrorists residing in Germany and sleeper cells in 20 E.U. nations. Hezbollah cells are using key European capitals as intelligence-gathering centers. In 2008, evidence suggested Hezbollah had planned terrorist attacks in Rome and Paris, as well as the kidnapping of major figures.
Iran has worked directly and through proxies, including small groups linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, to recruit potential suicide bombers to attack Israel, Europe and the United States. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has praised martyrdom as an "eternal art." The Committee for the Commemoration of Martyrs of the Global Islamic Campaign, backed by the regime and linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, has reportedly enlisted 40,000 people to carry out suicide attacks.
Iran maintains terrorist training camps within its borders and abroad. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Quds Force, an extra-territorial arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, operates 20 known terrorist training camps and centers. Hamas, Hezbollah and groups in Iraq send fighters to camps in Iran for months and even years of intensive training. Through Hezbollah, Iran trains insurgents in Iraq.
During the 1990s, Iran sent arms to the Muslim-led Bosnian government, a move violating a United Nations embargo on all sides of the civil war. Additionally, between 2004 and 2007 it was reported that over 300 Iranian operatives had entered Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Latin and South America
Hezbollah also carried out terrorist attacks in Argentina, and killed 241 Americans in the 1983 suicide bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. On Aug. 21, Iranian President Ahmadinejad nominated Ahmad Vahidi, wanted for his part in planning the 1994 Argentinean attack that killed 85 at a Jewish community center, as defense minister.
Hezbollah is very active in Venezuela, Bolivia and Uruguay, as well as other Latin American countries, seeking to plan new attacks against Israeli or Jewish targets in the continent. In 2009, the anti-American Hugo Chavez of Venezuela continued to strengthen his ties with Iran. Additionally, Hezbollah has been using Mexican smuggling routes, to smuggle drugs and people into the United States, in order to bring in money to finance terrorist operations.
Attacks on U.S. and British citizens
In 1988, an Iran-backed terrorist organization was responsible for the kidnapping, torture and murder of Col. William Higgins, a U.S. Marine officer serving under a UN mandate in Lebanon. Additionally, Iran has placed a death warrant on British author Salman Rushdie, attempted to assassinate him in 1989 and has kept a $2.5 million bounty on him.
North Korea and Iran have maintained strong ties. In 2007, the two countries signed a cultural and scientific exchange plan. Additionally, North Korea has shared its nuclear technology know-how with Iran and North Korea has provided arms and training to Hezbollah through this relationship. Such ties have also involved rocket experiments; in May 2009, a Scud missile reportedly tested by North Korea, Syria and Iran killed more than 20 people in a Syrian market.
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