Coming up

Don't miss




The World This Week - 01 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more


Coverage of Gaza in the Israeli media

Read more


1914-1918: The Depths of Hell

Read more


The World This Week - 01 August 2014

Read more


Exclusive: Israel's US ambassador speaks to FRANCE 24

Read more

#THE 51%

World War One: The war that changed women’s lives

Read more


Ségolène Royal goes for green

Read more


A look back at some of the Observers' best stories

Read more


Argentina Defaults: Kirchner Cries Foul Over 'Vulture Funds' (part 2)

Read more

  • Israeli soldier feared captured, ceasefire 'over'

    Read more

  • Exclusive: Israel's US ambassador speaks to FRANCE 24

    Read more

  • Air France ground workers to strike on August 2

    Read more

  • Rogue general denies Islamist seizure of Benghazi

    Read more

  • Ugandan court strikes down anti-gay legislation

    Read more

  • 1914-1918: The Depths of Hell

    Read more

  • Regional summit to tackle deadly Ebola outbreak

    Read more

  • French hospital to open wine bar for terminally ill patients

    Read more

  • Video: Tipping is dying out in French café culture

    Read more

  • €2.5 million in cocaine ‘disappears’ from Paris police HQ

    Read more

  • Appeal court keeps French rogue trader Kerviel in jail

    Read more

  • Interactive: France’s new plan to counter jihadism in Africa

    Read more

  • Ukrainian army suffers losses in separatist attack

    Read more

  • Argentinian markets plummet following default

    Read more

  • French Jews speak of growing fear in Paris amid Gaza conflict

    Read more

Middle east

Navy intercepts ship carrying arms from Iran for Hezbollah

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-11-04

The Israeli navy intercepted a ship which it claims was carrying hundreds of tonnes of Iranian weapons for the armed Islamist group Hezbollah. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak called the operation "a success" in the fight against arms trafficking.

Israeli naval commandos on Wednesday intercepted a ship Israel claims was carrying Iranian rockets, weapons and ammunition to Lebanon’s armed Islamist group Hezbollah.

The Antigua-flagged and German-owned vessel, named Francop, was brought to the Israeli port of Ashdod for inspection.

“We found hundreds of tonnes of arms hidden in dozens of containers,” deputy naval commander Rani Ben Yehuda told reporters. “The quantity of arms seized is at least 10 times more than on the Karin-A ship,” he added, referring to the 2002 interception of a ship carrying smuggled Iranian weapons.

Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai told Israel Army Radio that several Katyusha

IN THE FIELD: "There were some 300 tonnes of rockets, grenades and ammunition"

rockets had been found on board. Mortar shells, hand grenades and ammunition for AK-47 rifles were also found on the ship.

According to several news organisations, the Israeli military said an Iranian document was found on board, showing that the arms shipment originated from Iran. The paper was not, however, shown to reporters. An Israeli navy chief cited by the newspaper Haaretz said that the containers carrying rockets belonged to the Iranian commercial fleet.

An Israeli military success

The Francop was intercepted overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday around 100 nautical miles off the Israeli coast and inspected by members of the Israeli Commando 13 force. A military spokeswoman explained that all ships suspected of carrying weapons are investigated by the Israeli navy. “In this case it turned out to be true,” she added.

The ship’s documentation had raised suspicion because it was listed as being loaded in Egypt and destined for Syria, according to the Israeli news site Ynews.

Israeli President Shimon Peres hailed the interception as an “important achievement for the Israeli Defence Forces and the state of Israel”, while Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak called the operation "a new success in our struggle against weapons smuggling aimed at reinforcing terrorist organisations that are threatening the security of Israel."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that weapons discovered on the vessel could have been used to attack Israeli cities.

See no evil, admit no evil

The ship’s crew claim they did not know there were weapons in the containers, a statement confirmed by Major General Ben Yehuda. “We are certain the crew did not know anything, and even the Egyptians did not know what was loaded on board,” he told reporters.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem denied that the Francop was carrying weapons, and suggested the Israeli naval forces acted like “pirates”.

“Unfortunately official pirates have disrupted the movement of goods between Iran and Syria,” he told reporters on a visit to Tehran. “I stress, the ship was not carrying arms bound for Syria. It was carrying [commercial goods] from Syria to Iran.”

Contacted by the Agence France Presse, Hezbollah officials in Beirut refused to comment.

Israel has long accused arch-foes Syria and Iran of supplying weapons to Hezbollah and to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, which has been ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement since June 2007.

On Tuesday, a senior Israeli general warned that Hamas had successfully test-fired a rocket out to sea, and was capable of reaching Tel Aviv from Gaza.


Date created : 2009-11-04


    Israel says Hezbollah is turning Lebanon into a 'powder keg'

    Read more