Ron Ben-Yishai
Photo: Dudu Azulay
The Victoria ship (Archive)

Terror's alternate route

Iran, Syria change usual smuggling route due to close surveillance by Israel, US

The arms ship Victoria, intercepted by Shayetet 13 combatants off the country's Mediterranean coast early Tuesday morning, left the Mersin shipping port in Turkey heading for Alexandria, Egypt, according to official records. However the vessel actually originated from the Syrian town of Latakia.


The Port of Latakia is the main route for military and terrorist activities executed by the government in Damascus.


It can be assumed that the 'Victoria', a German-owned merchant ship, was initially chartered by Syria or Iran. The two countries probably worked together to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip. Their cooperation is a result of the growing difficulties Iran has encountered lately in its attempts to transfer arms directly to Gaza via its usual smuggling route.


This usual route began at Bandar Abbas in Iran and passed through Yemen. From there the ships would pass through the Red Sea to Sudan, all the way to the Sinai Peninsula. The final stop would then be the Gaza Strip.


However, Iran began to take notice that this route was exposed to Israeli and American surveillance, seeing as how most of its attempts to smuggle weapons via this route were prevented, according to foreign reports. Apparently this is why Iran decided to change its shipping course, with the help of Syria.


The civilian vessel cover-up was an attempt to camouflage the weapon containers loaded on board in Syria, together with the pit-stop in Turkey – where the ship arrived already carrying the arms. The amount of weapon containers caught on board was proportionately small, probably because the arms found were relativity light.


The pit-stop in Turkey was designed to conceal the vessel's true destination and primary mission. Ankara obviously had no idea what was on board the ship.


After stopping in Mersin, the vessel sailed on to Egypt, towards Alexandria, via a relatively distant route from the Israeli coast.


Reminiscent of Francop vessel

The weapons were then supposed to reach the Gaza Strip though the Sinai Peninsula. It is unclear whether the shipment was expected to reach the Sinai Peninsula on board a ship or through tunnels connecting Egypt to Sinai.


The interception occurred about 200 miles off Israel's Mediterranean coast, in international waters. However, because the vessel carried weapons intended for the use of terror organizations operating in the Gaza Strip, according to assessments, Israel has the legal right to intercept it and examine its cargo.


The operation is reminiscent of the November 2009 Israeli takeover of the Iranian Francop vessel off the coast of Cyprus. Israel captured hundreds of tons of rockets, missiles, mortars, grenades and anti-tank weapons which were intended for Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.


It seems as though this is another Iranian or Syrian attempt to smuggle arms into the Gaza Strip.


It is likely that these two countries tried to exploit the current situation in Egypt so as to reinforce Hamas's power. The situation in Egypt also created a governmental vacuum in Sinai, making it easier to smuggle weapons and illegal merchandise into the Gaza Strip.



פרסום ראשון: 03.15.11, 17:14
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