November 5, 2009
Feeder ship used to smuggle arms
Israeli intelligence sources say Iran is using feeder ships to supply arms to Hezbollah for use against Israel.
On Tuesday, the Israeli Navy intercepted and boarded the Gerd Bartels owned, Antigua and Barbuda flagged containership Francop 100 miles off Israel and brought it to the port of Ashdod.
According to the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) "dozens of shipping containers found on the ship were carrying 500 tons of weapons and ordnance disguised as civilian cargo among hundreds of other containers onboard. The amount of weapons found is 10 times larger than the Karin A ship intercepted in January 2002."
Israeli newspaper Haaretz today reports that, after unloading the arms, the Francop was released to continue on its original route. Haartetz says that Israel decided that the crew manning the vessel had no connection to the weapons found on board.
Lebanon based Hezbollah denied any link to the weapons.
Israeli website Debkafile, which specializes in security issues cites its military and intelligence sources as reporting that "a mammoth arms train has been running to Hezbollah for months via Egypt."
Debkafile says that the Iranian owned containership Visea offloaded the arms shipment at the Egyptian port of Damietta, where it was picked up by the Francop.
Debkafile says the 500 of tons of weapons found aboard the Francop were concealed inside sacks of polyethylene and "loaded aboard the Visea either at Bandar Abbas or Bandar Imam Khomeini in Iran. It sailed on Oct. 14, docking at Dubai's Jabel Ali on Oct. 18, after which it wound its way through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, reaching Damietta port Monday, Oct. 26. [Debkafile's] sources stress that the containers and their hidden arms freight stood on Egyptian docks for seven days until Nov. 1, when the German ship Francop collected it for delivery at Beirut.
The Francop is a feeder ship which circulates between regular ports of call beginning at Damietta, thence to Limassol in Cyprus and from there to Beirut, Lebanon, Port Latakia, Syria, and back. "Neither the owners nor the crew knew about the concealed arms cargo, which was not recorded in the ship's documents carried from the port of departure," says Debkafile. "These documents were left behind by the Iranian Visea."