Israel Intercepts Ship

Israel’s navy has intercepted a ship in the Mediterranean that it suspects of carrying weapons for Hamas fighters in Gaza. According to Israeli navy sources a ship bound for Egypt was stopped and boarded.

In a statement the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said it intercepted the Liberian-flagged vessel Victoria approximately 200 nautical miles off the coast of Israel yesterday.

The IDF stated that “According to assessments, the various weaponry on-board the vessel was intended for the use of terror organisations operating in the Gaza Strip” but did not describe the type of arms discovered on-board.

A Hamas spokesperson has denied the IDF’s allegations describing the Israeli statement as propaganda designed to damage the reputation of Hamas in the international community. Hamas deny that the ship’s contents were intended for Palestinian fighters.

According to the IDF the ship was travelling from a port in Turkey to Alexandria in Egypt, specifying that “Turkey is not tied to the incident in any way“. The IDF further stated that the crew, which posed no resistance to the Israeli forces, would be transferred to an Israeli port for questioning.

The ship is believed to be German-owned and leased to a French shipping operating company. No details have as yet been released as regards the nationalities of the ship’s crew.

Israel has on several occasion accused Hamas of shipping arms into the Gaza Strip through Egypt.

The incident may further strain relations between Tel Aviv and Ankara. Last May, Israel sparked an international outcry when naval commandos seized a Turkish vessel that was part of a flotilla trying to force the Gaza blockade. Nine people were killed after the Israeli commandos encountered resistance from pro-Palestinian activists on board the cruise ship Mavi Marmara.

Photograph courtesy of the IDF News Service

UPDATE:

The IDF News Service has published the following detailed articles related to yesterday’s operation:

1) Israel Navy Uncovers Weaponry on board Cargo Vessel

2) Anti-ship Missiles and Guidebooks Found on Victoria

3) Footage of Navy’s Interception of Victoria

—–

Mark Lowe, Wednesday 16 March 2011

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