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Navy releases ship seized for weapon search
By YAAKOV KATZ
04/23/2012
IDF sources say search which lasted over 12 hours came up empty and that the commandos did not discover arms aboard 'HS Beethoven'.
 
The Israel Navy on Monday released the HS Beethoven cargo ship which commandos had boarded on Sunday in search of arms it suspected were being smuggled from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip.

Commandos from the Navy’s Flotilla 13 – better known as the Shayetet – boarded the ship as it was sailing from Beirut to Alexandria, Egypt.

IDF sources said that the search, which lasted over 12 hours, came up empty and that the commandos did not discover weapons on board.

The ship, which was flying a Liberian flag, was intercepted by Israel Navy vessels approximately 260 km. from Israel’s coast. The commandos boarded with the captain’s consent and proceeded to inspect containers that had been loaded in Beirut.

While the IDF’s official statement said that the ship was boarded as part of “routine patrol” in the Mediterranean Sea, the decision to board the ship and send navy vessels and commando teams far from Israeli shores was more likely done based on intelligence which indicated that the ship might be carrying suspicious cargo.

Israel’s concern was that the Beethoven was carrying weapons for either Hamas or Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Last March, the navy intercepted a cargo ship called Victoria that was carrying some 50 tons of weaponry and was on its way to Egypt. It was also flying a Liberian flag and was headed to Alexandria.

If Israel acted on intelligence when boarding the ship, its various intelligence agencies – primarily the Mossad and Military Intelligence – will need to review their sources and check that they did not fall for an Iranian sting operation, in which Iran purposely planted intelligence to try and discover Israel’s sources and methods of operation.

Efforts to stop Iranian arms from being smuggled to Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah in Lebanon are nonstop and include operations not just in the Mediterranean but also in the Red Sea. Other western naval forces frequently assist Israel in patrolling the seas and in questioning suspicious vessels.
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