(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel’s seizure of the Victoria cargo ship on Tuesday joined a long and mostly
secret list of missions credited to the Israel Navy’s Flotilla 13, also known as
the Shayetet, which has led efforts against Iranian arms smuggling in recent
In November 2009, the Shayetet unit seized the Francop cargo ship
as it made its way toward Lebanon filled with hundreds of tons of weaponry en
route from Iran to Hezbollah.
The commando teams waited on a small, fast
patrol boat as the INS Eilat, one of the navy’s Sa’ar 5-class corvettes, blocked
the Francop’s course. After the commander of the Eilat received permission from
the Francop’s captain to board the freighter, he radioed the commandos and gave
them the green light to close in.
The commandos scaled ropes and climbed
aboard the ship without encountering any resistance. They lined up the crew and,
while several sailors kept an eye on them, others searched the cargo containers
until they discovered the weaponry.
The ship held 36 containers with 500
tons of arms: 9,000 mortar shells, 3,000 Katyusha rockets, 20,000 grenades and
half a million rounds of small ammunition, all hidden behind sacks of
The arms cache was loaded at the Iranian port of Bandar
Abbas and stopped at an Egyptian port, where it was unloaded onto the
In August 2010, Italian authorities discovered arms in cargo
containers that were slated to be loaded onto a ship in Italy destined for
Syria. Some of the containers were found to be carrying a type of explosives
called RDX, used in warheads of rockets in Hezbollah’s arsenal.
assessment was that the cargo was to be transferred from Syria to Hezbollah in
In October 2009, the Hansa India, which was sailing from Iran
under a German flag, was due to unload a cargo of eight containers in Egypt.
Following warnings from the German authorities, the cargo was not unloaded and
the ship continued to Malta, where it was seized and discovered to be carrying
bullets and industrial material intended for the production of weapons,
seemingly bound for Syria.
In January 2010, Cyprus stopped the
Monchegorsk ship, which was chartered by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping
Lines (IRISIL) and was carrying artillery and tank shells, as well as raw
materials to make rockets, on its way to Syria.
In 2003, the Navy
intercepted the Abu Hasan, a fishing boat that was seized west of Haifa, as it
made its way from Lebanon to Egypt carrying Hezbollah explosives bound for the
Gaza Strip. The cargo included a remote detonation device, CDs with instructions
on how to carry out suicide bombings, five boxes with rocket fuses, and 25
Katyusha rocket detonators.
In 2002, the Shayetet commandos captured the
Karine A arms ship in the Red Sea as it made its way to bring weaponry to
terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
During the second intifada, the elite unit
participated in ground operations as well, and was credited with the capture and
killing of several senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists.