JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli Navy commandos seized a German freighter en route to the Egyptian port of el-Arish on Tuesday. The ship was carrying Iranian-made weapons for Hamas, the Palestinian faction ruling the Gaza Strip.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved the operation.
"We had a solid basis that onboard the ship was weaponry destined for use against Israel," the prime minister said in a statement released by his office. "Considerable weaponry - which was destined for terrorist forces in the heart of Gaza - was found onboard the vessel."
"The operation was carried out at sea in accordance with all international rules. The weaponry originated in Iran, which is trying to arm the Gaza Strip," he continued.
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Elite naval commandos intercepted the Victoria about 200 miles off Israel's Mediterranean coast. According to media reports, the commandos encountered no resistance from the crew, who said they were unaware of the weapons cache on board.
The crew planned to unload the cargo at Alexandria's el-Arish port, where the weapons would have been transported by land to the smuggling tunnels near the Rafah border crossing.
The freighter, which set sail from Syria and docked in Turkey, left for Egypt Monday evening under a Liberian flag. A French shipping company was also involved.
The Navy is escorting the ship to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where it is expected to dock Tuesday evening.
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz informed Defense Minister Ehud Barak of the weapons seizure early Tuesday morning. The IDF and Foreign Ministry informed the German government, Liberia, and France of the seizure.
"The operation was approved, as necessary, in accordance with government directives in light of Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz's recommendations," a statement from the IDF Spokesman's Office said.
"The IDF and Ministry of Foreign Affairs alerted the German authorities about the interception of the Victoria, due to the German ownership of the ship," the statement read.
The ship is jointly owned by the government of Liberia and a German company.