Israeli naval forces intercepted a cargo ship in the Mediterranean on Sunday suspected of carrying arms, and troops boarded the vessel for a "security check, but found no weapons," sources in the Israel Defense Forces said.
The ship was intercepted near the northern coast of Israel, on suspicion that it was carrying arms destined for the Gaza Strip. The ship, Hs Beethoven, bearing a Liberian flag, was intercepted 160 nautical miles off the coast of Israel, and was boarded by fighters of Shayetet 13, the Israel Navy's elite naval commando unit. The inspection of the ship was carried out with the permission of the ship's captain, after he was contacted by radio and told that the ship would be checked. The ship's crew did not resist, and the fighters boarded it without using violence. No arms were found on the ship.
The IDF spokesperson said that the operation was carried out "as part of routine activity to prevent smuggling ... the IDF and security forces will continue to act untiringly against the efforts of terror organizations to obtain arms in order to harm Israeli citizens."
In recent years Israel has redoubled its efforts to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Most of the smuggling is organized by the Revolutionary Guards and Iranian intelligence in order to strengthen Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Sea routes are central to the smuggling effort, although airplanes are also used - flying from Iran over Turkey to Syria and Lebanon. According to foreign press reports, Israel has also attacked convoys in Sudan allegedly carrying weapons.
Only a small portion of the Israeli effort is reported. In November 2009 naval commandos seized the "Francop" and confiscated hundreds of kilograms of armaments including Katyusha rockets. In March 2011, Israel seized a cargo ship, the "Victoria," on suspicion that it held Iranian-supplied arms intended for the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Israel said the vessel had set sail from Syria, stopped in Turkey and had been destined for Alexandria in Egypt.
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