Netanyahu: Weapons on seized ship came from Iran through Syria
Azerbaijan, Baku, March 15 /Trend/
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that the weapons seized from a ship earlier in the day were from Iran, the newspaper Haaretz reported.
"We are currently collecting information and the one thing that is certain is that the weapons are from Iran with a relay station in Syria," Netanyahu said.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Israeli navy seized a ship that was smuggling weapons allegedly destined for terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
"Last night, I granted permission to take over a ship for which we had the basis to think that there were weapons on it destined for Gaza," Netanyahu said. "The source of the weapons is Iran, which continues to try to arm terrorist forces against Israel."
"It is our right and duty to stop the smuggling of these weapons," the prime minister said, adding that all nations connected to the ship had been updated on the situation.
The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Unit said that the ship "Victoria" originated from the Lattakia port in Syria and sailed to Mersin, Turkey. It was seized while on its way from Turkey destined for the El-Arish port in Egypt.
Turkey is not responsible for the seized ship "in any aspect," the IDF said.
Elite troops from the Shayetet 13 naval commando unit took control of the ship without a struggle when it was around 200 nautical miles off Israel's coast and towed it to the port in Ashdod. According to the IDF Spokesman Unit, the ship was carrying "tons" of concealed weapons destined for "the use of terror organizations operating in the Gaza Strip."
The IDF said that once the ship is anchored in Ashdod, its contents will be thoroughly examined and its crew will be taken in for questioning. Although the ship had set sail from Turkey, it bore a Liberian flag.
A joint statement from the IDF and Foreign Ministry said that German officials have been alerted of the ship's seizure, as the ship belonged to a German company. Liberian officials have also been alerted due to the Liberian flag on the ship. The operating company of the ship was from France, and thus French officials were also made aware of the situation.
This is not the first time that Israel has seized a ship carrying concealed weapons. The most famous incident was in 2003, when the Israeli military seized the Karine A, a vessel with 50 tons of missiles, mortars, rifles and ammunition headed for Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.