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Four Species
Planned by Israeli Sea Corps
Objective Seize freighter Francop
Date 4 November 2009
Executed by Shayetet 13
Outcome Success

The Francop Affair was a high seas incident on November 4, 2009 in which the Israeli military seized the MV Francop cargo ship in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and its cargo of hundreds of tons of weapons allegedly bound from the Islamic Republic of Iran to Hezbollah. The incident is also known by its military operation name, Operation Four Species.[1]

Operation

On November 4, 2009 Israeli navy commandos of Shayetet 13 boarded the ship MV Francop in the eastern Mediterranean Sea without resistance, acting on intelligence reports which it had received.[2] The ship was about 160 kilometres (100 mi) off the coast of Israel, near Cyprus. A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Force (IDF) said the ship was carrying "dozens of shipping containers, carrying numerous weapons, disguised as civilian cargo among hundreds of other containers on board". The IDF also said that the weapons originated from Iran and were to be directed to Hezbollah. The navy said that the crew was not aware of the purported smuggling and cooperated with Israeli commandos.[3] After boarding, the Israeli navy directed the ship to the Israeli port of Ashdod where a thorough inspection was held.[3]

According to the IDF, the ship picked up the cargo in Damietta, Egypt; the cargo arrived in Egypt on a ship that sailed from Bandar-Abbas, Iran on October 25.[3] The ship was then set to sail to Limassol, Cyprus and then Latakia, Syria.[3] The IDF suspects that the cargo was intended for Hezbollah, which fought Israel in the 2006 Lebanon War. Following the war, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 forbade the shipments of arms to Hezbollah.

An Israeli naval chief said that the amount of weapons found is ten times more than that found during Operation Noah's Ark.[4] The arms shipment weighed 320 tons and were held in containers marked with Iranian shipping codes.[2][5] The seized weaponry included 9,000 mortar shells, thousands of 107-mm Katyusha rockets, 600 122-mm rockets, and hundreds of thousands of AK-47 cartridges(7.62x39mm Soviet)[5]. The arms shipment was the largest ever seized by Israeli authorities.[2]

On November 5, 2009, ambassadors and diplomats from 44 countries and military attaches from 27 armies in the world were invited by the IDF and the Foreign Ministry in order for them to be witnesses of the many weapons and accumulation of ammunition that were found on the Francop ship.[6]

Reactions

President of Israel Shimon Peres said, "Today the whole world can see the large gap between Syria and Iran's statements and their actual activities. The ship's arrest is not only of critical military importance, but also of political importance. Facts cannot be argued with."[7] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it " a war crime that the UN Security Council should have a special meeting over".

Hezbollah made a statement to the press in which it denied "any connection with the weapons which the Zionist enemy claims it seized aboard the Francop ship".[2]Palestinian Authority spokesperson Ghassan Khatib stated that "Since the Israeli leadership and society are not ready for peace, they are using any pretext to shun peace obligations, and one is the issue of the Iranian shipment".[8]

An Iranian media source commentary claimed that "Israeli propaganda" was aimed at diverting attention from U.N. allegations of Israeli war crimes during the Gaza War.[8] Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said, "Unfortunately, some official pirates in the seas, sometimes in the name of the navy, sometimes in the name of inspection, obstruct trade movement between Syria and Iran. This ship does not carry Iranian weapons to Syria and does not contain military material to manufacture weapons in Syria. This ship carries imported goods from Syria to Iran."[9] After photos of the shipment was released by Israel the IRNA news agency claimed the shipping manifest from the "Ministry of Sepah" was forged citing that the Sepah ministry was renamed to "Defense Ministry" more than 20 years ago and that "if a country plans to send a secret arms cargo to another, it will not brand the shipment with a full description".[10][11]

References

  1. ^ http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1126397.html
  2. ^ a b c d Amy, Teibel (2009-11-05). "Hezbollah denies link to arms ship". Associated Press. Google News. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h3S0DqyLu9CfgcBASy2XHOGCk0IAD9BPAIG80. Retrieved 2009-11-05.  
  3. ^ a b c d Pfeffer, Anshel (2009-11-04). "Israel seizes ship in Mediterranean carrying more than 3,000 rockets". Haaretz. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1126069.html. Retrieved 2009-11-04.  
  4. ^ Greenberg, Hanan (2009-11-04). "Navy: 10 times more arms on ship than on Karin-A". Ynet. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3800306,00.html. Retrieved 2009-11-04.  
  5. ^ a b Katz, Yaakov (2009-11-05). "The haul: 320 tons of Katyushas, other rockets, shells and bullets". The Jerusalem Post (jpost.com). http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1257455195197&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull. Retrieved 2009-11-06.  
  6. ^ "Ambassadors, Military Attaches Witness Weapons Seized from Francop". IDF. 2009-11-05. http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/News/today/09/11/0505.htm. Retrieved 2009-11-05.  
  7. ^ Boudreaux, Richard (2009-11-04). "Israel seizes ship with alleged Hezbollah-bound arms". Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-israel-arms-boat5-2009nov05,0,7130886.story. Retrieved 2009-11-04.  
  8. ^ a b "Israel accuses Iran of war crime over arms ship". Khaleej Times. Associated Press. 2009-11-06. http://www.khaleejtimes.com/displayarticle.asp?xfile=data/middleeast/2009/November/middleeast_November176.xml&section=middleeast&col=. Retrieved 2009-11-06.  
  9. ^ "Iran and Syria deny arms claims". BBC News. 2009-11-05. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8343673.stm. Retrieved 2009-11-05.  
  10. ^ Press TV: Israel gaffe reveals 'Iran ship photos' were forged
  11. ^ Israel faked Francop arms claims -- Iran UPI November 16, 2009
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