Navy dep. commander: 'Victoria' carried anti-ship missiles

Rear Admiral Rani Ben-Yehuda says navy commandos found two C-704 missiles with Farsi-language manuals on cargo ship; Barak: Weapons would have limited navy's freedom of operations.

Victoria ship weapons smuggling
Victoria ship weapons smuggling
Victoria ship weapons smuggling
Victoria ship weapons smuggling
Victoria ship weapons smuggling
Netanyahu looks at a missile found on 'Victoria'
Weapons [illustrative]
An Iranian guidebook found aboard the "Victoria"
Iranian weapons siezed from the Victoria.
The Victoria cargo ship that was boarded by Israeli Navy commandos on Tuesday morning was carrying advanced Chinese-made anti-ship missiles that would have threatened Israeli sea-based strategic installations and navy vessels, deputy commander of the navy Rear Admiral Rani Ben-Yehuda said on Tuesday.
According to the Ben-Yehuda, commandos from Flotilla 13 – known as the Shayetet – found two C-704 missiles inside one of the containers they inspected aboard the Victoria, which was flying a Liberian flag as it was seized by the Israeli Navy 200 miles west of Israel.
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The ship was sailing from Turkey to the Egyptian port of Alexandria. It had originated in the port of Latakia in Syria where the weaponry was likely loaded. In addition the missiles, the commandos found different types of mortar shells with various ranges.
Just days before the cargo was loaded aboard the ship, two Iranian warships crossed the Suez Canal for the first time since the 1979 revolution. Ben-Yehuda said that he did not know if the Iranian ships brought the weaponry that was loaded onto the Victoria but that the timing raises serious questions.
“This needs to be considered,” he said.
Thirty-nine containers were loaded on the Victoria in Latakia including four that were slated to be unloaded in the Egyptian port of Alexandria. When the commandos boarded the ship they found the four locked and after opening them discovered some 50 tons of weaponry including the advanced anti-ship missiles.
The C-704 has a range of 35 km and carries a warhead with 130 kg of explosives. The commandos found booklets explaining how to use the missile in Farsi, further proof that the missiles originated in Iran.
The missiles use an advanced radar to acquire their targets. In 2006, a Chinese-made C-802 missile struck the INS Hanit off the coast of Beirut killing four Israeli sailors.
“The missile is made in china and it is in the possession of the Iranian and this adds to suspicions that it came from Iran,” Ben-Yehuda said. “There were also instructional booklets in Farsi.”
According to IDF assessments, Hamas does not have anti-ship missiles in Gaza. The IDF estimates that several of these missiles were included in the weaponry found on the Victoria.
PM: Israel has right to stop ships smuggling arms
Earlier Tuesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak also said the Victoria was suspected of carrying anti-ship missiles that would have impaired the Israel Navy's freedom of operations in the Mediterranean Sea.
According to Barak, one of the reasons that the Navy seized the ship early Tuesday morning was out of concern that if the cargo arrived in Gaza, Israel would have difficulty operating along the Gaza coast.
"We suspected that it was carrying the beginning of a system that could impair our operational freedom along the Gaza coast," Barak told reporters.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said that he gave the order on Monday night to board and take over the freight ship based on firm intelligence information that was it was carrying arms from Iran to Gaza.
During a tour of the security fence being constructed on the border with Egypt, he said the ship had stopped over in Syria and Israel had the "obligation and right to stop ships smuggling arms."
Netanyahu said that more information about the ship and what it was carrying would be released Wednesday.
"The seizure was made at sea according to international laws. We updated all the relevant countries and the international community," he added.