A vessel containing an armament of rockets headed for the Gaza Strip was seized and confiscated by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) in the Red Sea off the coast of Africa. The Panamanian-flagged cargo ship with a 17-member crew commanded by a Turkish captain is highly suspected of being part of an Iranian weapons smuggling operation. The crew are not suspects because it is believed that they had no knowledge of what was in the shipment. The shipping container had rocket crates covered up with sandbags and it was determined that the rockets were Syrian-manufactured. The M-302s rockets that were in transit for Gaza have a range of over 100 miles, and it was the same type of rockets use by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah in a war against Israel in 2006.
Israeli officials are accusing Iran of being a political patron to the militants in Gaza and Lebanon’s Hezbollah by training, funding and providing weaponry. Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a militant group made up of 16,000 armed fighters that maintains thousands of short-range rockets and is constantly trying to build up their rocket arsenal. This is not the first time Israeli forces have seized and confiscated armament en route to Gaza. Three years ago, a cargo ship heading towards Gaza that contained land-to-sea missiles was thwarted by the Israelis. In 2002, Israel forces ambushed an ocean liner with 50 tons of missiles, mortar, rifles and ammunition traveling to Gaza. There also have been allegations that Israel has executed air strikes on Sudan on arms freight that was bound for Gaza.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Gaza Hamas leaders, admits that Hamas does have political associations with Iran but denied that it receives support of weaponry from that country. He said Israel’s lies about Iran providing Hamas with arms is a propaganda tactic to validate antagonism against the Gaza Strip and when IDF was asked why Iran would not send their own missiles instead of Syrian-manufactured missiles, IDF responded by claiming Iran was making an effort to conceal their involvement in the arms shipment. Israel, with widespread intelligence, is strongly committed to blockading any and all supply lines of weapons to the Gaza Strip that are intended to be used against Israeli citizens.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asserted that while Iran is talking to world powers and pretending to be civilized on the international front, it is secretly transporting weapons to terrorist groups through a complex grid of secret operations to dispatch rockets, missiles and other deadly weapons. Netanyahu has also disparaged world powers’ negotiations with Iran stating the international community has provided too much cooperation with sanctions while getting a few concessions in return. Israeli officials have proclaimed that its naval commando forces have complied with international law during the confiscation of the Gaza armament and boarded the vessel with the consent of the crew. Furthermore, Israel said it will file a complaint with the UN’s Security Council and with a sanctions committee.
By Isriya Kendrick