Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Israel halts Palestinian arms ship|
|01/05/02 at 13:22:40|
|Perhaps the Palestinians should now use the same channels to import arms, the good old american way i.e. the US Army.|
Israel halts Palestinian arms ship
Freighter with guns, explosives seized at sea
Graham Usher in Jerusalem and Julian Borger in Washington
Saturday January 5, 2002
Israel accused the Palestinian Authority yesterday of plotting a serious escalation in the Middle East conflict after a Palestinian freighter was intercepted in the Red Sea, laden with arms and explosives apparently supplied by Iran.
A spokesman for the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, distanced him from the ship, the Karine-A, but the Israeli government pressed home what it viewed as a propaganda coup, inviting ambassadors to view 50 tonnes of weapons, including anti-tank missiles and Russian-made Katyusha rockets, which Israel claimed had been sent by Iran.
The Israeli chief of staff, Shaul Mofaz, told a Tel Aviv press conference that Israeli navy commandos had boarded the freighter early yesterday morning in a "daring and complex operation" 300 miles off Israel's southern shore.
According to Israeli military accounts, the troops were dropped into the Red Sea from helicopters and used rubber boats to come alongside the 4,000-tonne vessel. They then climbed up the hull and overpowered the 13-strong crew without a shot being fired
US special envoy General Anthony Zinni insisted on an explanation from Mr Arafat during a meeting with the Palestinian leader at his West Bank base in Ramallah.
Gen Zinni urged him "to take immediate steps to prevent future attempts to bring in additional weaponry or escalate the current conflict", the US state department spokesman, Richard Boucher, said.
Mr Arafat's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said the Palestinian Authority "knows nothing about the ship. We are going to investigate... though we consider it Israeli propaganda to sabotage the mission of General Zinni".
The Palestinian Authority claimed the cargo had been dispatched by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, a radical Palestinian faction based in Damascus that is opposed not only to the existence of Israel but also of the PA and Yasser Arafat's leadership.
However, Gen Mofaz said the boat was registered as belonging to the Palestinian Authority, and that its captain and crew were members of the Palestinian security services.
"The link between the ship's crew and the Palestinian Authority and its leaders is clear and undeniable," he said. "If [the cargo] had reached terrorists acting against us, it could have dramatically raised the threat faced by Israeli civilians and soldiers and widened significantly the scale of terrorist attacks."
The most dovish member of the Israeli cabinet, foreign minister Shimon Peres, expressed disappointment in Mr Arafat's leadership. The Palestinians "cannot continue playing the game", he said in a statement. "They have to make a strategic decision whether they support terrorism or they are against it."
Last May, the Israeli navy netted 50 Katyushas from a boat off its Mediterranean coast, using the haul as evidence that the PA was sponsoring armed struggle in Israel and the occupied territories.
It is known that Palestinian radical groups are not entirely united behind the policy of "restraint". Neither are the Arabs. Recent remarks by the Syrian foreign minister, Farouk al Shara, all but accused the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan of surrender by accepting the ceasefire terms laid down by Israel and the US.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians accused the Israeli army of armed aggression. In a pre-dawn raid yesterday Israeli tanks and helicopters entered the West Bank village of Tel, killing one Palestinian and arresting three others. The army said all four were Hamas militants wanted for an ambush on a settler bus on December that left 10 Israelis dead. The Palestinian Authority said the man killed was a Fatah activist and police officer who had worked to impose a ceasefire.
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