…and whose hand was caught inside it?
Paperwork aboard the German-owned, Antiguan-flagged container ship ‘Francop’ shows the origin of some of its arms containers to be the Iranian port of Bandar-Abbas, contradicting the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem’s assertion that the ship was carrying commercial goods from Syria to Iran.
The minister was also contradicted by an official spokesman for the Lebanese militant organisation Hezbollah, who declared that the group “…staunchly denies any link to the weapons that the Zionist enemy has seized from the Francop ship.” Additionally, Lebanese Minister Michel Aoun announced that if they couldn’t get weapons from Iran, then they’d get them from China.
The weapons were hidden behind bags of Iranian-made silicon, with some of the arms cases being labeled ‘PARTS OF BULLDOZER’ and listed on the ship’s manifest as ‘aerosols’ destined for the Syrian port of Latakia.
Video footage of the raid
In reality, the shipment contained thousands of 107 mm Katyusha and 122 mm Grad rockets, about 9,000 mortars shells, and several hundred thousand Kalashnikov rounds — enough to sustain an intense armed conflict for about a month. The weight of the shipment was determined to be 320 tonnes and many of the individual crates were labeled ‘Ministry of Sepah’.
American ships and satellites appear to have been involved in tracking the ship, but seizure of the vessel by the Israeli Navy was delayed until just after the conclusion of American-Israeli joint defense exercise, Juniper Cobra.
This event follows closely after another Iranian arms ship was snared by US warships in the Gulf of Suez last month. In 2002, Israeli forces captured the Karine A arms ship loaded with 50 tonnes of Iranian-supplied weaponry destined for Hamas militants in Gaza.
BBC: Israelis seize Iran arms ship
Jerusalem Post: Defense officials say weapons bound for Syria, Hizbullah
Jerusalem Post: Syrian FM: Ship was not carrying arms