On Nov. 4, an Israeli naval unit intercepted a cargo ship carrying weapons and ammunition disguised as consumer goods from Iran, destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon. The ship flew an Antiguan flag and was 150km offshore to the west of Israel when it was boarded by the Israelis who escorted it to the port of Ashdod for further inspection and identification of the crew.
Israel’s navy commander, Rani Ben Yehuda, confirmed that the ship “carried 40 consignments containing hundreds of tonnes of rockets, shells and hand grenades.” He noted that the quantity of arms uncovered “was ten times larger than that of the
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the Navy Chief of Staff and security forces, saying that their successful operation “had prevented the use of weapons in carrying out attacks on Israeli towns.”
Defence Minister Ehud Barak concurred, saying that the interception of the ship had interrupted the supply of arms and ammunition to “the theatre of terrorist activities in the north.” He added, “The naval operation was taken in the context of action to prevent terrorist organisations from arming themselves.”
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallam denied the Israeli account at a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, in Tehran. “Pirates are intervening to impede the passage of cargo ships on the pretext of inspecting them,” he said. “This ship was carrying goods from Syria to Iran. It was not carrying weapons or arms.”
While Mottaki did not mention the arms vessel, he confirmed that Iran was “in full agreement with Syria in its support for Lebanon’s security and stability and the safeguarding of its sovereignty.”
During the July 2006 war, Hezbollah fired 4,000 rockets at Israel. Its leader Hassan Nasrallah said that his party had 40,000 missiles in its possession, most notably Russian-made Katyushas that have a range between 12 and 25km, Iranian-made Raads and Fajrs that can reach Haifa and Zalzals with a range of 150km that can strike Tel Aviv.