Last Tuesday, the Israeli Navy seized a German merchant vessel chartered by a French company transporting weapons from Syria to Gaza 200 miles west off the Israeli. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said the “Victoria” ship sailed under the Liberian flag and was carrying various types of weapons.
“We had reason to assume the ship carried weapons meant to hurt Israeli citizens. The source of the weapons is Iranâ€¦The takeover was carried out mid sea in accordance with international law. The ship is being escorted to Ashdod.”
In addition to weapons, the soldiers that boarded the “Victoria” found a radar used for detecting ships prior to the launch of anti-ship missiles.
At least four anti-ship missiles with a range of roughly 22 miles was found on the vessel. Deputy Navy Commander Rear Admiral Rani Ben-Yehuda said the C-704 missiles were a threat to Israeli sea-based strategic installations and navy vessels.
During the Second Lebanon War, in 2006, a Chinese-made C-802 missile struck the INS Hanit off the coast of Beirut, killing four Israeli sailors.
En route to Alexandria, Egypt from Syria, the ship docked at Turkey’s Mersin Port. It is thought that the weapons on board were meant for terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
Security officials had been tracking the vessel for several days. It is thought the weapons were intended to pass Rafah’s tunnels en route to Gaza hence avoiding the naval blockade.
Netanyahu authorized the Navy operation Monday night and was briefed on the developments on Tuesday. The PM told a conference in Eilat Tuesday afternoon:
“Iran sends weapons to terrorist organizations in Gaza that would target the heads of our children. It is our right and duty to take action. We will unload the equipment and show it to the world, a world that rushes to blame Israel, which is struggling for the lives of its citizens.”
Also on Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, told Defense Minister Ehud Barak that the weapons found on the ship. The Foreign Ministry informed German authorities of the arrest as the ship belongs to a German company as well as the government of Liberia.