French warship reaches Gaza to combat arms smuggling

France's presidential office has announced that the French army will participate in the effort to halt Hamas arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip by deploying a frigate carrying helicopters in international waters off the coastal territory.


AFP - A French frigate carrying a helicopter was on its way Friday to international waters off the coast of Gaza to participate in a mission against arms trafficking in the Palestinian territory, officials said.

The deployment was ordered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in cooperation with Israel and Egypt as part of "immediate actions to fight against the smuggling of weapons towards Gaza," his office said in a statement.

The French military said late Friday that the warship named Germinal, which was deployed off Lebanon as part of a UN mission, would reach its destination "in the coming hours."

The ship carries a helicopter and radars that can track nearby boats, said Captain Christophe Prazuck.

The French warship will conduct "surveillance in international waters off Gaza, in full cooperation with Egypt and Israel," the French presidency said.

France, Britain and Germany have offered to help prevent arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip as part of measures to shore up a fragile truce following a 22-day offensive on the territory controlled by the Islamist group Hamas.

The French presidency said the priority was to "consolidate the current ceasefire, through humanitarian action, the total halt of arms trafficking towards Gaza, the durable reopening of border crossings, reconstruction and Palestinian reconciliation."

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