Dempsey and Gantz 311 .
(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz is working to recruit countries
from around the world to help combat what he is calling the “transatlantic
smuggling” of weaponry from Iran to its terror proxies in the
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Gantz raised the issue with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the
US Joint Chiefs of Staff, during his visit to Israel over the weekend, as well
as in talks with the various European chiefs of staff he met at NATO
headquarters in Brussels last week.
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Defense officials said Sunday that
Gantz’s efforts were part of a larger initiative by the defense establishment to
recruit a bloc of countries from around to world to crack down on Iranian arms
smuggling in the region, particularly to Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah
Israel has specifically asked the US and the European Union
to change the mandate of their fleets operating in the Red Sea and Mediterranean
to allow them to board and detain vessels suspected of shipping weapons to Hamas
The officials said Gantz was seeking to build on the Gaza
Counter Arms Smuggling Initiative, which was established following Operation
Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009 to prevent Hamas from re-arming.
members are Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway,
the United Kingdom, the US and Israel.
“This is extremely complicated
since it requires intelligence to know which boat is carrying what, as well as
new maritime laws to enable navies to board and seize ships,” a senior defense
A number of meetings have been held since the
establishment of the forum – in Ottawa, Copenhagen and London – but officials
said results have been limited, mainly due to legal obstacles. Officials also
said Egypt, which is used as a conduit for arms smuggling to Gaza, is not fully
In recent years, the Israel Navy has intercepted a number of
Iranian arms ships.
Last March, the navy seized the German-owned Victoria
cargo ship as it was sailing off Israel’s coast on its way to Egypt while flying
a Liberian flag. The ship was carrying 50 tons of weaponry destined for Hamas,
including advanced Iranian-made radar-guided antiship missiles.
November, 2009, the navy seized the Francop
cargo ship, which was sailing near
Cyprus on its way to Syria. Flying an Antiguan flag, the vessel was found to be
carrying around 500 tons of weaponry, including long-range Katyusha
Israel is also hoping to extend the mandate of Operation Active
Endeavor, which is a NATO project based in Naples under which Mediterranean
countries share intelligence information on sea-based threats. At the moment, the
mandate of the operation is to escort ships and share intelligence on potential
threats, and the Israel Navy has in the past stationed an officer in Naples to
liaison with NATO and other European countries active in the
The navy has in the past voiced its intention to
contribute a missile ship to the mission but has yet to do so, mainly due to
budget cuts, which have prevented it from increasing its fleet.