How Naval commando 13 seized the 'Francop'

From Karine A to Francop: The biggest arms seizures in the last decade

By
April 11, 2011 11:33
2 minute read.
Benjamin Netanyahu

Bibi netanyahu. (photo credit: JPost Staff)

 
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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, received permission from the Francop's captain to board the freighter, he radioed the commandos and gave them the green light to close in.

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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 capability.

The commando was also behind the capture of the Karine A 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.

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