Navy soldiers seized a German merchant vessel transporting weapons from Syria to Gaza 200 miles west off Israel’s coast on Tuesday. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said the “Victoria” ship sailed under the Liberian flag and was carrying various types of weapons.
The IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit said that the takeover was carried out swiftly and did not meet any resistance. The ship was later escorted back to the Israeli shore by Navy vessels for more scans.
A preliminary probe suggests the ship’s crew was not aware of the weapons concealed on board the vessel.
On its way from Syria to Alexandria, Egypt the ship docked at Turkey’s Mersin Port. It is estimated that the weapons on board were intended for terror groups operating in the Gaza Strip.
Turkey was in no way connected to the ship as far as the IDF is aware. The seizure of the vessel was authorized by the government.
Security officials tracked the vessel for several days, possibly weeks. It is estimated the weapons were meant to pass Rafah’s tunnels en route to Gaza thus avoiding the naval blockade.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahy authorized the Navy operation Monday night and was briefed on the developments on Tuesday.
Earlier on Tuesday, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz informed Ehud Barak of the weapons found on the ship. The IDF and the Foreign Ministry informed German authorities of the arrest as the ship belongs to a German company as well as the government of Liberia.
“Efforts to smuggle weapons into Gaza show that radical elements continue their attempts to hurt Israel and destabilize the region,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. “The IDF and security forces will continue working resolutely to defend the country.”
Shayetet 13 troops performed the takeover. The IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit said that the army will continue to maintain Israel’s security and prevent smuggling which facilitate terrorist activity in Gaza and Lebanon.