hamas weapons 298.88.
(photo credit: Channel Two)
The Cypriot Navy has stopped an Iranian ship, believed to be carrying weapons for Hamas, on its way to Syria, defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday night.
The Cypriot-flagged vessel was stopped by the US Sixth Fleet in the Gulf of Aden earlier this week on its way to Egypt, where it was believed to have planned to unload its cargo, which was then to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip.
The US Navy searched the ship with permission of the captain and found "small munitions," but the vessel was allowed to continue its voyage after the search, and was bound for Syria. The US said it lacked the authority to seize the cargo. The ship had initially tried docking in Egypt but was denied access by the Egyptian Navy.
On Thursday afternoon, though, as the ship passed 100 km. off the coast of the Cyprus port of Limassol, it was stopped by the Cypriot Navy, which was legally allowed to intercept it since it was flying a Cypriot flag.
Cyprus's decision to intercept the ship, officials said, was made after the United States and several European countries applied pressure on the government in Nicosia. The officials said that the ship was believed to be carrying a number of shipping containers packed with weaponry.
"This is an example of how the sanctions on Iran are not effective," a defense official said on Thursday. "Iran is making great efforts to get new weaponry to Hamas in Gaza."
"There are two main smuggling routes," one official explained this week. "Some of the weaponry comes by ground from Somalia, Sudan and then into Egypt and through a tunnel into Gaza, while some comes by boat."
The boats sometimes unload the shipments in the Sinai's Port Said, where it is smuggled into Gaza by land. Other times, the shipments are dropped overboard in waterproof containers and are picked up by Gazan fishermen or divers.