Israel Navy uncovers weaponry on-board cargo vessel
Missile identification document in Persian bearing the Iranian governmental emblem found onboard the Victoria, noting the name of the missile (“Nasser”), the missile system (C-704), and date of manufacture. (Photos: IDF Spokesperson)
Yesterday, On the 15th of March 2011, the Israeli Naval Forces boarded and searched the Liberian flagged vessel VICTORIA, after receiving the consent of the ship’s captain. The boarding was based upon confirmed reports that the vessel was carrying illicit arms destined for terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip. The ship was off the coast of Israel, in the open waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
In a preliminary search by the boarding party, the vessel was found to be carrying significant amounts of arms and military equipment. Nothing in the freight manifest of the Victoria revealed the true nature of the content of the ship’s containers, in violation of the relevant provisions of the International Maritime Organization’s Conventions and professional standards, including the Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code.
According to the ship’s document, and the account of the crew, the ship initially departed from Latakia port in Syria, and then proceeded to Mersin Port in Turkey. The ship was bound for Egypt.
It has been determined that Turkey had no connection to the arms smuggling attempt.
This attempt at smuggling large amounts of weaponry aboard the Victoria provides an additional proof of Israel’s imperative need to examine all goods entering the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Israel cannot allow weapons and military equipment to reach the hands of terrorists, who will use them against its civilian population.
The illegal smuggling of arms to the Gaza Strip poses a direct and imminent threat to the safety and security of the State of Israel and its citizens, who continue to find themselves under the unceasing attack of rocket and mortar fire originating from Gaza.
Preliminary evidence indicates that the weapons aboard the ship originated in Iran, which strives to arm the Gaza Strip.
Under Hamas rule, the Gaza Strip has become part of the Iranian-Syrian-Hamas axis.
Such transfer of weaponry to terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip constitutes a blatant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1860(2009), which calls upon Member States to intensify efforts to “prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition” to the Gaza Strip (para. 6), as well as a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1373(2001), which, inter alia, calls upon all States to refrain from the provision of any form of support to terrorist organizations and to eliminate the supply of weapons to such groups.
This is not the first time that a smuggling attempt is being carried out - There have been a number of previous instances (including incidents involving the Santorini, Abu Hassan, the Karine A, the Hansa India, the Monchegorsk, the Francop and Everest cargo vessels) in which otherwise innocent transnational commercial shipping was abused by States that sponsor terrorism, including Iran, Syria and Lebanon, in order to facilitate the illegal trafficking of arms to terrorist organizations in the region.
For more info and pictures, Follow these 2 links.