(Communicated by the IDF Spokesman)

Three terrorists involved in the Karine A affair, in which Israeli security forces intercepted the weapon-smuggling ship on its way to Gaza in January 2002, were sentenced to prison terms in a military court yesterday.

The military court in Gaza sentenced Omer Mahmad Hasa Ahawi to 25 years imprisonment for his involvement in the smuggling of weapons to the PA, the sentence beginning with his arrest.

The two other individuals found guilty in trials, Riyad Tzelah Mustafa Abdalla and Ahmed Mahmad Ahai Hish, each received 17 years imprisonment for their role in the affair, with their sentences beginning with their arrest.

Ahawi directed the weapon-smuggling industry for the PA. Ahawi failed in the first two attempts to ship weapons from the Hizbullah in Lebanon. The third shipment, on the ship Santorini, containing dozens of containers filled with weapons, was supposed to arrive on the beaches of Gaza, but was intercepted by the Navy. Ahawi was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for smuggling weapons on the Santorini.

In the summer of 2000, Ahawi began to search for a large ship for smuggling weapons, triggering the beginning of Israel’s intelligence work that culminated in the capture of the ship, the Karine A.

Ahawi purchased the Karine A in Lebanon. At the end of 2001, it was filled with "civilian" goods, such as clothes, rice and toys. In addition, the ship was filled with weapons that came from Iran and the Hizbullah. The ship traveled to Yemen, with the weapons concealed beneath the "civilian" goods.

While on its way from Yemen to Gaza via the Suez Canal, Israeli naval forces, along with intelligence personnel and additional forces, boarded and captured the ship. The State of Israel confiscated the weapons and distributed the "civilian" goods to the Palestinians via UNWRA.

Questioning of the terrorists involved revealed that the shipment on the Karine A was only one of four shipments intended for the Palestinian Authority. The shipment which was confiscated included dozens of Saggar missles, 60, 81, and 120 mm. mortars, Katushya rockets (20 km. range), anti-tank missile launchers, rifles and anti-tank mines, and hundreds of thousands of bullets of various types.