Past Attempts of Weapons Smuggling by Sea
These attempts highlight the cooperation between Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas. Archive photo: IDF Spokesperson
Over the past 10 years there have been many attempts to smuggle weapons to terrorist organizations by sea. These attempts highlight the cooperation between Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas in their goal to undermine the State of Israel and target its civilians.

Talia Wissner-Levy, IDF New Media

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 PFLP-GC.

The Santorini ship was acquired by 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

Karin-A was intercepted in the Red Sea, heading towards the Palestinian Authority. It carried 80 submergible containers of 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 the Gaza Strip or picked up by a smaller vessel and delivered to the Strip. 

Yasser Arafat's former CFO and confidante at the time, Fuad Shubaki was heavily involved in the smuggling attempt, the crew included members of the P.A. and Arafat eventually admitted P.A. involvement in the smuggling attempt. The ship was purchased in Lebanon and sailed to Sudan and Yemen to pick up civilian goods (watermelon seeds, sesame seeds, rice, toys, clothes) to disguise the weapons aboard.

June 8th, 2002

Two Palestinians were found swimming along the north 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 was intercepted in waters west of Haifa, sailing from Lebanon to Egypt carrying Hezbollah explosives bound for the Gaza Strip. The boat itself was a fishing boat, no doubt 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 P.A. and Hezbollah.

October 12th, 2009 Hansa India

The Hansa India, which sailed from Iran flying a German flag was due to unload a cargo of eight containers in Egypt. Following warnings from the German authorities, the vessel was not unloaded and continued to Malta where it was seized and found to be carrying bullets and industrial material intended for the production of weapons, seemingly bound for Syria.

November 3th, 2009 Francop

The Francop was intercepted off the coast of Cyprus en route from Iran to Syria where it would be smuggled by land to Hezbullah 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 polyethelene. The arms smuggling was attempted without the knowledge of the crew: the cache was loaded from the Bandar Port in Iran on an Iranian vesel and stopped at an Egyptian port, where the cache was unloaded onto the Francop, a German vessel. The cache was ten times larger than the cache seized from the Karin A.