Prime Minister on the seizure of the Victoria, "The origin of the weapons was Iran"

Archive photo: IDF (Zahal) Spokesperson

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explains that weapons being smuggled on board the Victoria were part of Iran’s efforts to arm the Gaza Strip. Defense Minister Ehud Barak accuses radical elements of trying to undermine regional stability

Date: 15/03/2011, 4:37 PM     Author: IDF (Zahal) Website

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday (Mar. 15) referred to the IDF (Zahal)’s success in thwarting the smuggling of weapons on board the Victoria cargo vessel.

“We had reasonable grounds to believe that there were weapons on board which were intended to be used to harm Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu said.

“The origin of the weapons was Iran, which is trying to arm the Gaza Strip,” the prime minister continued. “The seizure was made at sea according to international laws and the ship is being led to Ashdod.” Netanyahu further added that Israel has updated all the countries involved in the situation.

Earlier, Defense Minister Ehud Barak praised the Shayetet 13 and navy soldiers who were involved in the seizure of the ship, which was on its way from Turkey to Egypt loaded with weaponry intended to be used by terror organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. Along with IDF (Zahal) intelligence and operations officers, Barak had been monitoring the movement of the vessel over recent days.

“The IDF (Zahal) and naval soldiers today prevented the smuggling of weapons to the Gaza Strip, which were supposed to be used to against Israeli citizens,” Barak said. “The purpose of the smuggling was to harm Israel’s security and IDF (Zahal) soldiers acted in order to defend the security of the state.”

Barak emphasized that “the attempt to smuggle weapons into Gaza shows that radical elements are continuing attempts to attack Israel and continuing to act to undermine stability in the area. I congratulate Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Benny Gantz, Navy Commander Maj. Gen. Eliezer Marom and the soldiers of the navy for this successful operation. The IDF (Zahal) and defense establishment will continue to act with determination everywhere in order to defend the state.”

On Tuesday morning, Lt. Gen. Gantz referred ambiguously to the IDF (Zahal)’s activities to prevent weapons smuggling by sea, saying that “in recent months, great efforts have been made to prevent this phenomenon.”

Shayetet 13 soldiers seized the Victoria cargo vessel 200 miles off the coast of Israel on Tuesday morning, encountering no opposition from the ship’s crew. The ship is currently being led to Israel.