Israelske kommandosoldater kaprer tysk skib

JERUSALEM (05.11.2009): Jeg har i de seneste dage være så opslugt af den dramatiske situation i Iran, som vi på TV2/NEWS og TV2/Nyhederne dækker nærmest time for time, at jeg kun har tid til at skrive denne korte note om en anden dramatisk begivenhed, nemlig at israelske kommandosoldater fra den israelske flåde, i Middelhavet har taget kontrollen med et tysk containerskib med iranske våben, missiler og ammunition, som angiveligt skulle sendes til Hizbollah militsen i Libanon. Dette drama i Middelhavet er naturligvis den store historie i medierne hernede i dag. Så her får I lige den israelske avis Haaretz' version af historien:

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By Jack Khoury, Barak Ravid and Anchel Pfeffer
Haaretz Correspondents
November 5, 2009

The Lebanon-based Hezbollah militant group on Thursday denied any connection to the 300 tons of weapons seized by Israeli commandos during a raid on a ship originating from Iran.

"Hezbollah denies any link to the weapons that the Zionist enemy claims it removed from the vessel Francop," the group said in a statement. "At the same time it condemns Israeli piracy in international waters."

The Hezbollah response came after Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said reports of the seizure were fabricated.

Israel's Foreign Ministry on Thursday invited diplomats from around the world to the Ashdod port to view the tons of seized weapons.

The Israel Defense Forces finished unloading the ship late Thursday morning and allowed the crew to leave, as they apparently had no connection to the cargo found on board.

The Foreign Ministry had issued a document to Israeli embassies and consulates around the world on Wednesday, instructing employees to utilize Israel's seizure of the ship, believed to have been shipped by Iran and meant for Hezbollah, to direct international pressure toward Iran.

Israeli diplomats were instructed to stress Iran's violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions forbidding it from supplying weapons to Syria or Hezbollah.

The Francop was captured in the Mediterranean Sea by Israel Navy missile boats and naval commandos late Tuesday night in an operation dubbed Operation Four Species.

The arms shipment began its journey about 10 days ago aboard an Iranian ship that sailed from the port of Bandar Abbas to the Mediterranean port of Damietta (Dumyat) in Egypt. The cargo - which, according to a ship manifest, was destined for Syria - was unloaded in Egypt, and then loaded three days later onto the Francop, a German-owned ship operated by a Cypriot company. The ship's crew reportedly did not know what the containers really held.

The navy, which tracks suspicious activity at sea along known smuggling routes in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, located the Francop shortly after it left Damietta on Tuesday on its way to Limassol, Cyprus, and thence to Syria. Toward evening, an Israeli navy missile boat made contact with the Francop and asked to conduct a routine inspection of its cargo. Israeli naval commandos boarded at around midnight on Tuesday, in rough seas, and met with no resistance from the ship's crew of 11.

The Israeli naval personnel checked the ship's manifest, which showed that the cargo was going to the Syrian port of Latakia, and began opening the containers. They found sacks of polyethylene near the opening and along the walls of the containers, but behind the sacks, they discovered numerous crates of ammunition and artillery shells. At that point, they ordered the crew to sail to Ashdod.

Upon the ship's arrival at the Israeli port, the lengthy process of unloading the cargo began. It was expected to be completed on Thursday morning.


The cargo included thousands of medium-range 107- and 122-millimeter rockets, armor-piercing artillery, hand grenades and ammunition for Kalashnikov rifles. Even with all the cargo not yet unloaded, the navy estimated that the haul included more than 3,000 rockets and a total of 300 tons of weaponry. This compares to only 40 tons seized in 2002 on the Karine A, whose weapons were destined for the Palestinians.

The rockets and artillery shells on the Francop were mostly manufactured over the past two years, and though they had English-language markings, intelligence officials believe that most were manufactured in Iran ¬ other than the 122-millimeter rockets, which are apparently of Russian manufacture.

Because of the manner in which the crates were hidden, the army is convinced that the weapons were destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Such a shipment would be a clear violation of UN Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

The cargo did not include rocket launchers or advanced weaponry that would alter the balance of power with Israel. Nonetheless, the army said, the rockets that were seized are the equivalent of about 10 percent of Hezbollah's existing stock, and could have been used for weeks of intensive shelling of northern Israel.

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem instructed diplomats to emphasize in interviews and conferences the fact that the ship that was seized en route to Syria, with a planned stop in Beirut. The diplomats were further asked to explain that the Israeli navy's actions, including diverting the ship to Ashdod, were all executed with the crew's cooperation.

Israel will use this event to put Iran in the limelight. The Foreign Ministry argues that this arms shipment is a blatant violation of UNSC resolution 1747 which forbids Iran from exporting weapons and ammunition. "Since these weapons are meant for the northern terror front, this is also a blatant violation of UN resolution 1701," the memo read.

The Foreign Ministry also asked embassies and consulates to issue a statement saying "Iran is continuing to smuggle weapons to terror organizations under the guise of legitimate international trade, and thus turns the Mediterranean Sea into a base for illegal activity."

It was further emphasized that "Iran is challenging the UN Security Council and poses a strategic threat to the stability and peace of the world."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that anyone who was still skeptical over Iran's continuous supply of weapons to terror organizations, was given conclusive proof when the Francop's cargo was exposed.

"Iran is shipping weapons to terror organizations in order to attack Israeli cities and kill its citizens. It is time that the international community applied real pressure on Iran to stop these criminal actions, and support Israel in its battle against terrorists and their patrons," Netanyahu said.


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