Israelis capture boat with rockets, detonators, suicide instructions

Friday, May 23, 2003

TEL AVIV Israel has captured an Egyptian fishing boat bound for the Palestinian Authority that officials said transported rockets, detonators and computer "how to" disks for suicide bombers. Also on board was a Hizbullah rocket expert.

Officials said Israeli commando forces captured the boat near the Lebanese port of Nakoura on Wednesday. They said the boat was headed for the Gaza Strip and contained rocket components and instruction books for making advanced explosives.

The military said in a statement that the Egyptian boat contained 36 computer disks with instructions for suicide bombers, 25 rocket detonators and a radio activation system for remote-control bombs. A film found on the boat provided instructions on making RDX, a powerful explosive.

The aim, officials said, was for Hizbullah to instruct the PA and the ruling Fatah militia on the assembly and production of Katyusha rockets, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the Hizbullah expert was to have trained Palestinians on how to build a 122 mm launcher for the Katyusha rocket.

Most of Hizbullah's huge arsenal of Katyusha rockets is said to have a range of 22 kilometers. Palestinian insurgents have developed the Kassam-2 and Kassam-3 short-range missiles, with a range of no more than 12 kilometers.

The officials said the Egyptian boat was ordered by an aide of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, Adel Maarabi. They said the boat left Alexandria for Libya, where it picked up rocket components. From there, the vessel went to the Lebanese coast, where the Hizbullah operative boarded. The operative was identified as Hamad Maslam Mussa.

"There is no doubt that those involved in the affair are very close to Arafat," Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said.

The officials said the PA's Maarabi was linked to at least two other ships sent by Hizbullah to the Gaza Strip since 2001. They were the Santorini and the Karine-A, the latter captured by Israel in the Red Sea in January 2002.

The Israeli navy has increased patrols of the eastern Mediterranean to prevent the prospect of an insurgency attack from the sea.

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