Israel seizes cache of arms ‘bound for Lebanon’

The Israeli navy yesterday seized a ship carrying what defence officials said was five hundred tons of Iranian-supplied weapons bound for Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, including Katyusha rockets that could be used in the event of renewed Israel-Hizbollah hostilities.

Army spokeswoman Maj Avital Leibovitch said it was the largest weapons seizure ever by the Israeli military. Israeli vessels in the Mediterranean stopped the ship, the Francop, a commercial vessel flying an Antiguan flag, in international waters one hundred miles west of the Israeli coast and searched its cargo, army officials said. After discovering weapons concealed in containers, they escorted the ship to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where troops began unloading it.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the seizure stopped the weapons from going to "the northern sphere of terrorism", a reference to Hizbollah, which fought the Israeli army to a stand off in 2006, firing 4,000 rockets at the Jewish state. But Israeli officials produced no immediate proof that the weapons came from Iran or were bound for Hizbollah. The Lebanese fundamentalist group declined to comment yesterday on the seizure, while Syria denied the boat was carrying Iranian weapons to Syria, which Israel alleges supplies Hizbollah with weaponry from its territory.

Israeli navy rear-admiral Roni Ben-Yehuda said the boat had picked up the cargo of weapons in Egypt, but added, "We are sure that the crew and even the Egyptians did not know what was being loaded onto it."

Analysts said the interdiction would not have much impact on the long-term balance of power between Israel and Iran or Israel and Hizbollah. "It's important tactically but it's not as if we've discovered something we didn't know about here," said Yossi Alpher, former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies.

Israel sees both Hizbollah and the Palestinians' Hamas movement as proxies Tehran uses to wage indirect war against the Jewish state. On Tuesday, the Israeli army intelligence chief, Amos Yadlin, said Hamas had tested a missile with a range of 60km, which could reach Tel Aviv from Gaza.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Purchase Ledger Administrator

£5120 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the countr...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Surveyor

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Support

£9000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working for one of the countr...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Estimator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence