Archive photo: IDF (Zahal) Spokesperson
Among the weapons found on the Victoria on Tuesday (Mar. 15) were missiles with far longer range and the ability to operate automatically, posing a threat to anyone in their vicinity
Date: 15/03/2011, 8:37 PM Author: Tamara Shavit
Among weapons found on the deck of the Victoria on Tuesday (Mar. 15), Navy Commando 13 soldiers found C-704 anti-ship missiles equipped with radars and a range of 35 kilometers. “These are strategic weapons. If Hamas gets its hands on them they would seriously damage strategic infrastructure at sea and at shore,” said Israel Navy Chief Brig. Gen. Rani Ben-Yehuda.
According to Brig. Gen. Ben Yehuda, these types of missiles are dangerous not just to Navy ships but also to civilian vessels usually arriving at the Ashdod Harbor. “Because the missiles can be programmed to work automatically, they pose a threat to any additional targets within their range. They are easier to control and mobilize than previous missiles,” he explained.
According to IDF (Zahal) intelligence gathering, Hamas does not currently carry missiles of this type in the Gaza Strip. That said, The Hezbollah terrorist organization in Lebanon does have similar capabilities.
The Navy Chief added that guidebooks in Farsi were found on the ship along with other symbols of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, another indication that the Victoria was an Iranian attempt to shift the order of power in the Middle East.
As many as 50 tons of weapons discovered
The Victoria carried as many as 50 tons of weapons, an amount similar to that of the Karin A, a ship caught by the IDF (Zahal) sailing to the Palestinian Authority in 2002. According to the Israeli Navy, this is only a preliminary estimate and weaponry found on the ship will be checked only after the Victoria docks at the Ashdod port. As mentioned, along with the strategic weapons found on the ship, a large amount of 60 and 120 mm mortar shells were found as well.
Brig. Gen. Ben Yehuda said in a briefing that those sending weapons to the Gaza Strip are highly motivated to do so through Egypt. “To say we catch all the attempts at smuggling weapons to the Gaza Strip would be arrogant and untrue. With that, we are doing everything we can. This latest seizing furthers the need to interrogate ships,” added Brig. Gen. Ben Yehuda stressing that, “We are operating at the heart of the ocean, both the Mediterranean and in others.”
Catching Victoria emphasizes the importance of the maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip. “There is huge potential in smuggling weapons by sea, both in because of the simplicity of route and the large quantities it enables to smuggle. If we allow free entry of ships into the Gaza Strip, weapons will come in droves to terrorist operatives in the Gaza Strip,” added the Chief of the Navy.
As far as international law, he says the IDF (Zahal) is operating completely in accordance with the rules . “From the first step of questioning and gathering the facts to the interception itself, there was complete cooperation with the captain, allowing Naval Commandos to reach the ship using the ship’s ladders. The ship did not know about the cargo and was surprised by it. We believe Turkey and Egypt were as well.”