According to shipment documents and crew questioning, the vessel initially departed from the Lattakia Port in Syria, and then proceeded to Mersin Port in Turkey. The IDF emphasizes that Turkey has no connection to this incident regarding the weaponry uncovered on-board.
A short while ago, IDF Navy fighters intercepted the cargo vessel “Victoria” loaded with various weaponry. According to assessments, the weaponry on-board the vessel was intended for the use of terror organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. The vessel, flying under a Liberian flag, was intercepted some 200 miles west of Israel’s coast. This incident was part of the Navy’s routine activity to maintain security and prevent arms smuggling, in light of IDF security assessments.
The force was met with no resistance from the crew on-board and the vessel is now being led by the Israeli Navy to the Israeli port in Ashdod for further searches and detailed inspection of the cargo.
The vessel was on its way from Mersin Port in Turkey to Alexandria Port in Egypt. The IDF would like to note that Turkey is not tied to the incident in any way.
The operation was approved as necessary in accordance with government directives in light of the Chief of the General Staff’s recommendations.
Earlier this morning, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz updated the Minister of Defense, Mr. Ehud Barak, about the findings on-board the vessel.
The IDF and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs alerted about the interception of the “Victoria” to the German authorities, due to the German ownership of the ship. In addition, the government of Liberia, whose flag it was flying under, was notified, as well as France, due to the French shipping company.
The operation was under the command of the IDF Navy Commander, Maj. Gen. Eliezer Marom, and the interception was under the command of the Navy Special Forces Commander.
C-704 Anti-Ship Missiles Found On-Board the “Victoria”
From an initial investigation, strategic weapons were found on-board the “Victoria” -- many 60 and 120 mm mortar shells, and C-704 anti-ship missiles. The C-704 shore-to-sea missiles had a range of 35 kilometers and its likely use along the Gaza Strip endangers not only infrastructure near the Gaza sea, but Israeli shore cities in close proximity such as Ashkelon.
Iran is known to possess these type of missiles, which, along with identifying documents (including a missile identification document, below) gives substantial evidence of Iran’s involvement in the weapons smuggling attempt, and yet another example of Iran’s use of innocent merchant ships as a means of transferring arms to terrorist organizations.
List of Weaponry Found on the “Victoria”
Below is a preliminary list of weaponry and weaponry systems discovered and unloaded this morning at the Ashdod Port hidden in the cargo of the “Victoria” vessel:
--230 mortar shells, 120 mm
--2,270 mortar shells, 60 mm
--6 C-704 anti-ship missiles
--2 radar systems manufactured in England
--2 hydraulic mounting cranes for radar system
--66,960 bullets for the Kalashnikov, 7.62 millimeter
It is important to note that the C-704 shore-to-sea missiles have a range of 35 kilometers and according to assessments, their intended destination to the Gaza Strip would have constituted a significant gain in the weapons capabilities of terror organizations operating there.
The identification document for the anti-ship missiles was in Persian and contained emblems of the Iranian government throughout. In addition, the ship left from the Syrian port of Lattakia before stopping in Turkey to make its way to Egypt. To the IDF’s understanding, Egypt and Turkey had no prior knowledge of the weaponry.
This incident further demonstrates Iranian and Syrian involvement in strengthening and arming terror organizations in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere.