Below are some of the attempts by terror sponsoring states to arm terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah operating in the Gaza Strip and Southern Lebanon with weapons smuggled via the sea. These attempts are those publicly made available and are not a comprehensive account of every smuggling attempt made by sea. They highlight the need for comprehensive security checks for all vessels approaching the Gaza Strip and for other vessels suspected to be carrying weapons to terrorist groups in the region.
May 7th, 2001: Santorini
The Santorini was intercepted on its way from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip. It contained a large shipment of 40 tons of weapons including Strela anti-aircraft missiles—the same kind that terrorists fired at and narrowly missed an Arkia Israeli passenger jet taking off from Mombassa, Kenya in November 2002. The shipment also included mortars, rifles and guns, grenades, mines and explosive material, anti-tank RPG-7 missile-launchers, and artillery rockets.
Three crew members aboard the Santorini were convicted for trying to smuggle weapons from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip—the captain, a professional weapons smuggler and two of his relatives aboard the ships had been involved in three previous smuggling attempts backed by Hezbollah and the PFLP-GC.
The Santorini ship was acquired by the PFLP-GC in a small island off Syria, and registered as Syrian. During previous smuggling attempts by the crew, arms were packed in Syria and transferred to Lebanon by a Syrian bus. Part of the anti-tank weaponry originated from Iran.
January 3rd, 2002: Karin-A
The Karin-A was intercepted in the Red Sea, heading towards the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip. It carried 80 submersible containers containing 50 tons of weapons, including: RPG-7 rockets, RPG-18 anti-tank rocket launchers, Iranian-made anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, 2200 kilograms of high explosive demolition blocks, Sagger anti-tank launchers and missiles, as well as rifles, machine guns, AK-47s, 735 hand grenades, 700,000 rounds of small ammunition, and diving equipment. The submergible containers were to be dropped into the sea and then washed ashore to the Gaza Strip or picked up by a smaller vessel and delivered to the Strip.
The Palestinian Authority was heavily involved in the smuggling attempt, especially Yasser Arafat’s former Chief Financial Officer and confidante at the time, Fuad Shubaki. The crew of the Karin-A also included senior members of the P.A . , indicating Arafat’s direct involvement. The ship was purchased in Lebanon and sailed to Sudan and Yemen to pick up civilian goods (watermelon seeds, sesame seeds, rice, toys, and clothes) to disguise the weapons aboard.
June 8th, 2002
Two Palestinians were found swimming along the northern Gaza Strip shore armed with four grenades, an AK-47, and four ammunition magazines in an attempt to infiltrate an Israeli community
August 4th, 2002
IDF naval forces identified an armed Palestinian wearing a oxygenated scuba diving suit and carrying an AK-47, 8 grenades, 4 ammunition magazines, who was on his way towards an Israeli community from the Gaza coast.
November 23rd, 2002
After many attempts to communicate with an unknown Palestinian fishing boat heading from the Gaza Strip towards the direction of Israel, the bomb-laden boat exploded near an Israeli security patrol boat, moderately injuring three and lightly injuring one.
January 7th, 2003
A suspicious life raft found floating along the northern Gaza Strip coast was found to be booby-trapped with explosives.
May 21st, 2003: Abu Hasan
The “Abu Hasan”, intercepted in waters west of Haifa, was sailing from Lebanon to Egypt carrying a Hezbollah operative specializing in explosives bound for the Gaza Strip. The boat itself was a fishing boat, used purposefully to disguise its intentions. Cargo contained: a radio-activation system to detonate bombs remotely, CDs of directives on how to carry out suicide bomb terror attacks, five boxes with rocket fuses, and 25 Katyusha rocket detonators. The masterminds of the arms smuggling attempt were connected to Arafat’s Palestinian Authority and Hezbollah.
May 9th, 2006
Early in the morning of Israel’s Independence Day, the Israeli Navy spotted a suspicious vessel crossing from Egypt into the southern Gaza Strip. After ignoring repeated warnings issued by the Navy, the Navy opened fire towards the vessel, whose crew then steered the boat to hide behind a Palestinian civilian boat. The crew was then spotted to be tossing large sacks off the vessel into the water. The Navy ceased fire out of concern that the Palestinian civilian boat would be hit, and the suspicious vessel escaped. The large sacks tossed overboard were later found by an underwater robot to contain over 500 kilograms of explosives.
May 14th, 2006
The Israeli Navy spotted a suspicious Palestinian vessel off the coast of the southern Gaza Strip and issued warnings ordering the crew to stop the vessel. Upon receiving the warnings, the crew began to toss large bags off the ship into the water. The Navy apprehended the vessel and detained the crew for questioning. The bags were later found to contain several hundred kilograms of explosives.
October 12th, 2009: Hansa India
The “Hansa India”, which was charted by and sailed from Iran, was due to unload a cargo of eight containers in Egypt where it was believed to continue on to Syria or Lebanon. Following warnings from the German authorities, the vessel was not unloaded and continued to Malta where it was seized by the US military and found to be carrying bullets and industrial material intended for the production of weapons, seemingly bound for the Syrian army or Hezbollah.
November 3th, 2009: Francop
The Francop was intercepted by the Israeli Navy off the coast of Cyprus en route from Iran to Syria where it was planned to be smuggled by land to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The ship contained 36 containers with 500 tons of arms: 9,000 mortar bombs, 3,000 Katyusha rockets, 3,000 gun shells, 20,000 grenades and half of a million rounds of small ammunition, all hidden behind sacks of polyethylene. The arms smuggling was attempted without the knowledge of the Francop crew. The cache had been loaded from the Bandar Port in Iran on an Iranian vessel and stopped at an Egyptian port, where the cache was unloaded onto the Francop, a German owned vessel. The cache was ten times larger than the cache seized from the Karin-A and the Victoria.
June 7th, 2010
Israeli Navy soldiers off the coast of the central Gaza Strip near Nuseirath identified a squad of terrorists wearing diving suits on their way to execute a terror attack.
February 1st, 2010
Five barrels packed with 15-20 kilograms of TNT explosives were deployed via the sea by the Islamic Jihad and other Gaza terror organizations to Israeli beaches. Two of the barrels exploded near the Gaza Strip, while the other three, attached by a buoy, washed ashore on the Ashdod, Ashkelon and Palmachim beaches. Activation mechanisms were attached to the barrels so that they would be detonated following a cellular device signal activated by the terror organization.
Following warnings issued by the Israeli Navy, the barrels found along the Israeli shores were detonated in a controlled manner by Israeli Police sappers, and no one was injured.
March 15th, 2011: Victoria
The Victoria, a German owned ship, was discovered by the Israeli Navy to be carrying over 50 tons of weapons in three containers, concealed behind bales of cotton and sacks of lentils, including 60 mm and 120 mm mortar shells, C-704 anti-ship missiles, and ammunition for Kalashnikov assault rifles. Most of the weapons, including the C-704 missiles, were manufactured in Iran and came with Farsi-language instruction manuals which sported symbols of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on their covers.