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Wednesday, March 16, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Israeli commandos seize ship with Iran weapons intended for Hamas

TEL AVIV — Israel has captured a ship full of Iranian weapons, including anti-ship missiles, headed for the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip.


The Israeli military said its naval commandos intercepted a Liberian-flagged ship identified as Victoria some 200 nautical miles west of Israel, Middle East Newsline reported. The military said the ship, seized on March 15, was carrying anti-ship missiles and sailed from Turkey toward the Egyptian port of Alexandria.

"According to assessments, the various weapons on board the vessel were intended to be used by terror organizations operating in the Gaza Strip," the military said. "The IDF would like to note that Turkey is not tied to the incident in any way."

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Officials said Victoria, brought to the Israeli port of Ashdod for inspection, contained up to 50 tons of heavy weapons. They cited 60mm and 120mm mortars, missiles, rockets and other weapons and equipment.

"Considerable weaponry — which was destined for terrorist forces in the heart of Gaza — was found onboard the vessel," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Officials said Iran has sought to supply the first anti-ship missiles to Hamas. They said Victoria contained at least four Chinese-origin C-704 anti-ship missile, with a range of 35 kilometers as well as an Farsi-language operating manual.

The ship was believed to have been loaded with Iranian weapons in the Syrian port of Latakia. Officials said Victoria then moved to the Turkish port of Mersin before the trip to Egypt.

"Preliminary evidence indicates that the weapons aboard the ship originated in Iran, which strives to arm the Gaza Strip," the military statement said. "Under Hamas rule, the Gaza Strip has become part of the Iranian-Syrian-Hamas axis."

A military statement said Victoria's crew was questioned and determined not to have known of the weapons cargo. The statement said the crew did not resist Israel Navy boarding.

"The IDF will continue its intelligence and operational activities in order to maintain Israel's security and prevent arms smuggling that will fuel the terror and strengthen its infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and in Lebanon," the military said.

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