Israeli naval commandos seized a container ship Wednesday that defense officials said was carrying more than 60 tons of missiles, rockets and anti-tank weapons from Iran to Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.Antitank weapons cause the greatest concern for Israel, as they were responsible for many of the Israeli casualties in the Hizbullah war in 2006. While the katuysha and other missiles would be terror weapons for use against the civilian populations, the antitank weapons were the weapons that could keep the Israeli army at bay and inflict casualties among the soldiers tasked to rooting out Hizbullah elements.
The pre-dawn seizure near Cyprus was a rare interception of a suspected arms shipment by Israel, which has long accused Iran of arming its enemies. Israel offered no evidence to support its claim that the weapons were meant for Hezbollah.
"There were Katyusha (rockets), whose purpose is to hit civilians," Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Army Radio.
Other weapons found included anti-tank missiles. He did not give any quantities, saying the ship was still being unloaded in Israel. He said the crew was not aware of the cargo's contents.
A partial breakdown of the weapons captured by Israel on the Antiqua-flagged ship that was stopped near Cyprus:
Ben-Yehuda said that there was regular intelligence indicating that Iran was continuing to support terror groups with large amounts of weapons aimed at being used against Israel. Furthermore, it was likely that additional shipments from Iran would be shipped, he said.YNetnews reports that the weapons captured would have been enough to allow Hizbullah to wage war for a month. The shipment was ten times the size of the shipment stopped by Israel in 2002 aboard the Karin-A.
The containers were owned by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines Group, or IRISL, the military said, adding that aach container contained sacks, filled with 25 kilos of silicon, made by the Natural Petrol Company in Iran.
Upon opening the containers used for smuggling the weapons, only the sacks were visible, but behind the sacks lay weapons.
The weapons included 107-millimeter rockets, 60-millimeter mortars, 7.62-rifle Kalashnikov-ammunition, F-1 grenades and 122-millimeter Katyusha rockets. On the side of some of the cases inside the containers the words "parts of bulldozers" was written.
Ben-Yehuda called the shipment "very advanced weaponry". He added that even though the Iranian containers were loaded at port of Damietta in Egypt, the Egyptians were totally unaware of the ship's contents.
A month ago, Der Spiegel reported that the US Navy had boarded a German cargo ship near the Suez Canal that was carrying ammunition from Iran to Syria or Hizbullah.
While the Israelis managed to stop this particular shipment, it is all too likely that others have made their way into Hizbullah hands, courtesy of Iran.