Cypriot authorities were searching an impounded cargo ship on September 6 after being tipped off that the Syria-bound vessel was carrying an illicit stash of weapons.
”Its bill of lading said it was carrying meteorological equipment. We have been informed that Interpol had information of its possible involvement in arms smuggling,” Cyprus ports authority chairman Chrysis Prentzas told state radio.
State radio said metal pipes were found on board the Panamanian-flagged Grigorio 1 which could be the casing of a weapons system.
”Something has been found which can be used for meteorological purposes but it can also have a military use and we are checking this out,” a source close to the enquiry told AFP.
The ship anchored off the southern port of Limassol on Sept. 5 after leaving Egypt’s Port Said for Latakia in Syria and was immediately boarded by a special Cyprus police unit and explosives experts armed with a search warrant.
Police said the documentation did not match the description of the goods on the ship and that they were questioning the eight-man crew about the suspect cargo.
Cypriot newspaper Phileleftheros quoted unnamed officials as saying they were almost certain that some of the items on board were part of a missile launcher.
Report: US seeks to block missiles for Hizbullah
The Jane's Defense Magazine reported on Thursday that Israel and the United States have intensified efforts to prevent Hizbullah from replenishing its arms depots, which dried out during its 34-day war with Israel.
The magazine reported that on July 19, US intelligence satellites spotted Iranians "loading eight Chinese-designed C802 anti-ship cruise missiles and three launchers onto a transport aircraft at the military section of Mahrebad Airport outside Tehran for shipment to Hizbullah via Syria."
On July 20, Turkish officials refused to allow the Iranian plane entry into Turkish airspace and the flight was cancelled.
Israel maintains that arms shipments bound for Hizbullah have been airlifted to Syria, but no further details have been given.
The magazine said these flights landed at three Syrian air bases – the military section of the Mezze International Airport in Damascus, Nasiriya, 40 km from the Lebanese border and Qusayr, north of Damascus and 25 km from the Bekaa Valley.
Israeli aircraft destroyed most of the bridges and roads linking the two countries, but Israeli intelligence services believe ancient mountainous smuggling trails were used to transport arms to Hizbullah during the 34-day war.