A history of smuggling weapons by sea

Navy's elite Flotilla 13 unit has been involved over past decade with high profile missions involving seizure of weapons headed for Hamas, Hezbollah.

Francop (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
(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 years.
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 polyethylene.
The arms cache was loaded at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and stopped at an Egyptian port, where it was unloaded onto the Francop.
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.
The assessment was that the cargo was to be transferred from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
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.