Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

16 Iyar 5761 - May 9, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Arms Ship Capture Saved Israeli Blood -- Ben Eliezer
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

A lot of Israeli blood was saved by the navy's capture of a ship loaded with deadly weapons, Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said Monday, adding that the attempt at infiltration was proof of bad faith by the Palestinians. Earlier the Israeli navy intercepted a Lebanese ship laden with barrels full of weapons headed for the Gaza Strip.

Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said the discovery and seizure of the arms made it clear to the world that the direction the Palestinians are taking in their fight with Israel does not cross paths with peace and makes a mockery of all the agreements and promises they have made.

He also said that the variety of weaponry and quantities sent in mark an escalation in the Palestinian confrontation. The weapons were a veritable arsenal and military analysts said that the amount was enough to change the strategic balance between Israeli and Palestinian forces.

The new wooden vessel, with a crew of four Lebanese smugglers on board, was picked up by IDF spotter aircraft on Sunday morning.

After a brief investigation and heightened suspicion after seeing the deck packed with barrels, reinforcements were dispatched and patrol boats surrounded the vessel. The ship's crew surrendered without any resistance.

Ben-Eliezer praised the alertness of the officers and crews of the gunships that intercepted the Lebanese craft outside Israel's territorial waters--off the coast between Haifa and Tel Aviv--as it was bound for the Gaza Strip.

The weapons on the boat were more sophisticated than those used by the Palestinians in the conflict so far, and included arms such as rockets and mortars that the Oslo accords forbid the Palestinian Authority from having altogether.

The 107 millimeter Katyusha rockets found on board--which do not even require launchers to be fired--have a range of over 8 kilometers. If fired from the edge of the Gaza Strip, for instance, they could easily reach the outskirts of Ashkelon. The Strella rocket is effective against targets at altitudes of from 25-3,500 meters and at ranges of 50-5,000 meters.

It was Strella missiles in the hands of Afghani fundamentalist fighters that caused the Russians serious problems and numerous casualties during the Afghanistan War.

Had any of these weapons reached PA-controlled areas in Judea and Samaria it would have meant that many towns and cities inside the Green Line would be in firing range, including Tel Aviv. Military and civilian aircraft would also have been put at grave risk.

"I can only hope that PA leaders will understand the significance and ramifications of using such weapons. I reiterate that all we desire is that they lay down their arms and return to the negotiating table," Ben-Eliezer said.

When asked whether this attempt at infiltration indicated there had been previous arms shipments to the Palestinians, Navy Commander Yedidya Ya'ari answered that the very increase in patrols was indicative of the assumption on the part of the IDF that there would be intensified attempts to bring in weapons by sea.

He added that, while he could not say for sure whether other shipments had got through, the navy's assessment is that this is not the case, though Ben-Eliezer said the Israeli army must work under the assumption that the PA already has these kinds of weapons.

Ya'ari said some of the weapons, all of which were carefully packaged in waterproof wrappings, had been packed into barrels which were roped together. The aim was apparently to drop the barrels into the sea at a designated point off the Gaza coast where they would be later picked up by Palestinians.

It is apparently not the first time that this kind of method has been used, as evidenced by the previous discovery of arms in barrels in the same area.

He said that the packing of the weapons was done in a professional manner by people obviously used to dealing with arms and that the crew of the ship also knew very well how to smuggle the arsenal to Gaza.

The boat had departed from Tripoli and followed a route that kept it in international waters off the Israeli coast. Its destination was the Gaza Strip.

The weapons, originally manufactured in Russia, China, Hungary, and elsewhere, were acquired by Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

Palestinian officials denied that the PA was responsible for the attempt, saying that large numbers of weapons from various places, including from Israel, have been delivered to extremists.

The disclosure came following a day of widespread clashes between Israeli troops and armed Palestinians, including the IDF shelling of the Khan Yunis refugee camp in Gaza that killed a Palestinian infant. The girl's mother, grandmother and three siblings were wounded in Monday's shelling.

The IDF said it was responding to Palestinian mortar attacks on Jewish settlements in Gaza.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon apologized for the death of five- month-old Iman Hije, and said the IDF is under instruction to prevent civilian casualties.

There were reports that Sharon planned to send his son, Omri, for an urgent meeting with Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat to try to calm tensions. The High Court ruled Sunday that Sharon's son, who is not a civil servant, could act as an informal liaison to the Palestinians on condition that each mission receives prior approval from the attorney general.

In the Knesset, the prime minister told legislators at the opening of the summer session that the conflict with the Palestinians is a prolonged, complicated one. He reiterated that there would be no resumption of political dialogue until the violence and terrorism stops.

Appealing directly to the Palestinian people, Sharon said, "All of your achievements were gotten through negotiations. All of the tragedies through violence."


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