Thursday, November 5, 2009

Israel’s navy has intercepted a ship carrying weapons some 160km off its coast

Israel’s navy has intercepted a ship carrying weapons some 160km off its coast, the military said. Marines boarded the Antiguan-flagged vessel, discovered it was carrying weapons and towed it to the port of Ashdod, a military spokesperson said.

No details of the ship’s destination or the types of weapons it was carrying have been given. In recent months Israel has stepped up efforts to combat the smuggling of arms to Hamas and Hezbollah militants.

The vessel was intercepted during a routine patrol by the navy. Israeli media reports said the weapons were concealed as commercial freight.

The media quoted anonymous defence officials as saying the arms included anti-tank missiles and could have been bound either for Syria or for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon - with the source of the weapons assumed to be Iran. Defence Minister Ehud Barak said in a statement that the weapons were being sent to what he called the terrorist arena in the north. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the Israeli army, navy and security forces on a successful action to prevent the supply of weapons that he said were destined to strike Israel’s cities.

Since Israel’s offensive in Gaza last December and January, the Israeli navy and air force have been have conducting intense searches in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea for ships smuggling weapons either to Hezbollah or to Hamas in Gaza. In February, Israel said a vessel detained off Cyprus was carrying Iranian weapons to Hamas in Gaza. Iran denied the claim


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