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Mass quantity. Captured shells Photo: AP
Mass quantity. Captured shells Photo: AP

IDF: Arms smuggling will continue

Military says that while capture of Hezbollah-bound weapons shipment was major blow to Iran, Syria and Shiite group, smuggling attempts are likely to continue using different routes

Hanan Greenberg
Published: 11.05.09, 00:50 / Israel News

Israel's capture of the Francop arms vessel may lead to a change in the smuggling route between Iran and Syria, military sources estimated Wednesday.


The IDF believes that that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is behind the Hezbollah-bound arms shipment, intercepted by the Israel Navy some 93 miles off the coast.


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"This was a strategic and embarrassing blow to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah – a lot of money and resources went down the drain, as far as they're concerned – but still, the war against arms smuggling is far from over," a senior military source said.


Meanwhile, military personnel are still unloading the thousands of rockets, shells and munitions stashed away in the bowels of the boat. The dock the Francop was towed to at the Ashdod Port has been declared a sterile zone and is being heavily guarded.


Hundreds of crates have already been unloaded, leaving no doubt as to the nature of the shipment. Many of the crates contained standard-issue rockets, some with markings distinctive to Iranian munitions and other bearing the markings of Chinese and Spanish manufacturers.


The Engineering Corps' special operations Yahalom ("diamond") Unit was called in to oversee bomb disposal at the scene: "We reported to the port immediately and began inspecting what turned out to be massive quantities of munitions," a Yhahlom officer told Ynet.


"The mission was clear – inspect every container and every crate before clearing other units to handle the weapons."


Israel hoped the operation will deter shipping companies, European harbors and insurance companies from doing business with seemingly innocent Iranian vessels, which can effectively blow up at any given time.


The IDF, however, is far from complacent: "There is no doubt that a little pat on the back in is order after this kind of coup, but that's about it," a military source said. "Iran will continue to play a major role in arms smuggling and we have to keep being one step ahead of them."


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