(photo credit: AP)
The seizure of the Francop cargo ship on Tuesday night joins a long and mostly secret list of missions credited to the Israel Navy's elite commandos from Naval commando 13.
While most of their operations are hidden from the public, navy commandos have played a key role in all of Israel's recent conflicts, including the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip last winter.
On Tuesday night, the commando teams waited on a small, fast patrol
boast as the INS Eilat
, one of the navy's Sa'ar
5-class corvettes, blocked the Francop
's course as it
made its way toward Lebanon filled with hundreds of tons of weaponry en
route from Iran to Hizbullah.
After Cmdr. Ziv, commander of the Eilat
permission from the Francop
's captain to board the
freighter, he radioed the commandos and gave them the green light to
A senior IDF officer said on Thursday that two ships
were used since the navy was not absolutely certain that there were not
armed men aboard the Francop
. For this reason, the
Sa'ar 5-class ship was deployed; it has greater firepower than some of
the navy's smaller vessels.
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 last operation in which Naval commando13 is known to have
participated was during the 2006 war, when a team entered the Lebanese
coastal town of Tyre in an attempt to capture a senior Hizbullah
operative and take out some of the group's long-range missile
The commando was also behind the capture of the Karine
arms ship in the Red Sea in 2002, as its 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.
One of the concerns during the Tuesday night interception and
seizure was the possibility that some of the containers were
booby-trapped. "We took all the necessary precautions," said Ziv.