Israel intercepts ship for weapons search (REUTERS) Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Michael Roddy JERSALEM, ISRAEL 04/22/12 4:12pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - Israeli naval forces intercepted a cargo ship in the
Mediterranean on Sunday then boarded the vessel to search for
suspected weapons, military officials and media reports said.
Israel routinely patrols the seas for ships suspected of carrying
weapons destined for Palestinian militants. A year ago Israel seized
a cargo ship it said held Iranian-supplied arms intended for the
Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Israeli military officials, said the ship, the HMS Beethoven and
flying a Liberian flag, was seized about 160 miles off the Israeli
coast, and one source said troops were conducting a "very thorough
search of its cargo."
The ship would be released if nothing "suspicious" is found on board,
a military official said.
The officials suggested there had been no confrontation aboard the
vessel, that the captain had consented to the search and that so
far "nothing outstanding has been found".
One of the officials described the interception as "routine
protection of our territorial waters".
Israeli media reports said the military suspected the ship may be
transporting weapons intended for Palestinian militants in the Hamas
Islamist-ruled Gaza Strip.
In the earlier seaborne interception in March 2011, Israel said the
vessel it seized had set sail from Syria, had stopped in Turkey and
had been destined for Alexandria in Egypt.
Palestinians use a network of tunnels to smuggle weapons into Gaza
from Egypt. Gaza militants often fire rockets at Israel and say it is
in response to Israeli raids in their coastal territory.(© Thomson
Reuters 2012. 04/22/12)
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