|Israel Resource Review
||6th January, 2002
How the Israeli Media Covered the Capture of a PA Ammo ship
In a pre-dawn raid on Thursday morning, January 3, 2002, IDF naval commando troops seized control of the Karine-A vessel without a fight and forced it to sail 500 kilometers north to Eilat. The ship, which Israeli officials say was owned by the PA and manned partly by PA officials, including a colonel in the Palestinian Authroity navy, was laden with at least 50 tons of weapons and ammunition. The media in Israel report that notwithstanding Palestinian denials and some American equivocations, the weapons and ship were bought by the Palestinian Authority and were earmarked for Palestinian use . . . . Here is what the Israeli media looked like on Sunday, January 6th, 2002, as the story of the ship capture unfolded
Arafat Caught Red Handed
Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 1) by Nahum Barnea -- The capture of the Palestinian
weapons ship was not just a successful, James Bond-like military operation.
It is a landmark in the history of the conflict. If the Entebbe operation
extended the boundaries of the war on terror, the Red Sea operation created
a new, sharper identification of the coalition of terror.
It casts Arafat in an embarrassing light. He is not only the great
kisser from Ramallah. He is also the gunsmith [this is a play on words in
Hebrew that cannot be translated. [The roots of the Hebrew words "kiss" and
"weapon" are identical (n.sh.k.)]
It casts the Iranian government in an even more embarrassing light. Some
American administration officials have been nurturing the Iranian dream
ever since September 11. Iran, which was Bin Laden's declared enemy and
which, contrary to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, did not feed al-Qaida's terror
cells, was supposed to be the United States' greatest ally in the Moslem
All that was under the assumption that the Iranian regime stopped
exporting terror. In George W. Bush's United States, that is an inviolable
The Americans knew that the Iranians continued to maintain their covert
involvement in Middle Eastern terror: they operate Hizbullah and urge
Islamic Jihad and Hamas to resume the terror attacks. But covert operations
can either be denied or repressed. You can't swallow 50 tons of weapons,
including Katyusha rockets. If the Iranian government is behind this
shipment it is, according to the standards set by Bush, like the Taliban
That means that the Americans have to reexamine their priorities. It may
be that the eradication of the Iranian nuclear option is more urgent that
the eradication of Saddam Hussein's regime. And it means that the Americans
have no one to rely on in the Moslem world except Turkey.
The weapons on the boat apparently were earmarked for both the
Palestinian Authority and Hizbullah. That division only worsens the
Palestinian Authority's situation. Anyone who forges an alliance of terror
with Hizbullah can't say in the same breath that he aspires to reach a
peace agreement with Israel. Arafat was caught with his pants down.
The Israeli governments have long hoped for a Palestinian "Altalena"
ever since the Oslo accords were signed. Altalena was the weapons ship that
the Etzel brought to Israel in 1948. Ben-Gurion interpreted the ship's
arrival as an attempted rebellion and ordered that it be sunk. The hope was
that Arafat would fight the rejectionist organizations until they were
eradicated, just like Ben-Gurion fought the Etzel.
But Arafat had other aspirations. He doesn't sink Altalenas. He brings
One can say, of course, that the secret acquisition of weapons is the
legitimate act of a people that strives to achieve its independence, and of
an authority that is helpless in the face of Israel's military edge. One
can also say that the Palestinians did not buy the weapons with the
intention of using them, but only to deter Israel. Israel too, when it was
in its first years of existence, spent most of its money on secret
acquisitions that in many cases were in violation of its international
The difference is that Israel stood then with its back to the sea,
against the Arab invader. Arafat has just declared, under American
pressure, the end of the Intifada. He said that he is intent on peace, on a
cease-fire, on a hudna.
(Yesterday, some of Sharon's confidants reflected sarcastically on how
the expression on President Katzav's face would have looked had the ship
been discovered an hour after he made his hudna with Arafat in Ramallah.
Would the president have relocated the festive ceremony to the ship's bow,
like in the movie Titanic?)
The capture of the ship has made Sharon a happy man. That is
understandable. Not only because of the stunning military operation, which
has bolstered national morale and pride, but mostly because of its
diplomatic implications. Sharon is very fortunate that Arafat, the serial
gunsmith, has remained relevant. What would he do without him?
A Perfect Operation
Ma'ariv (p. 1) by Yaakov Erez -- [Yaakov Erez is the editor-in-chief of
The successful raid carried out by navy forces demonstrated to the
Palestinians and the entire world the IDF's surprising response
capabilities, which are not limited just to Israel or to sites where
fighting is in progress.
Five hundred kilometers from Israel's shores, in the open expanses of
the Red Sea, at 4:00 a.m. Thursday morning, navy units raided a merchant ship
on its way to the Suez Canal. The forces knew how to locate the ship
accurately, and succeeded in taking it over with a combined raid from the
air and the sea, with no casualties. In its hold, they discovered a large
shipment of explosives and weaponry which was sent by the Palestinians with
Iranian help in order to escalate the fighting in the territories and begin
a new chapter in the war against Israel.
Uncovering the cargo aboard the Karine-A was the primary goal of the
military raid, but the significance of the operation, which was carried out
flawlessly, was that it demonstrated impressive operational capabilities by
the IDF, far from Israeli territory, while using intelligence methods in an
The IDF has already made long-range raids whose stories have become
movie scripts. But on Thursday, in early January 2002, the Israeli Navy
operated in a surprising and respect-arousing way. For doing so, the IDF,
the Navy and its commanders deserve much gratitude from the people of Israel.
The Karine-A was located several days ago, after embarking from Yemen
and heading for the Suez Canal. Surveillance and pursuit from a distance
were implemented, and most of that time, the ship was under Israeli eyes.
When it was 500 kilometers from Eilat, Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz decided
to raid the ship. Despite the great distance from Eilat and the uncertainty
of everything going as planned, the chief of staff decided this was the
right time to carry out the raid. Navy commandos had been dispatched to the
target two days earlier. The uncertainty was great. No one knew how many
terrorists were on board and whether the raiding forces would encounter
At the time of the raid, the senior commanding officers, Chief of Staff
Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, Navy Commander Maj. Gen. Yedidya Yaari and IAF
Commander Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz, sat in a Boeing 707, flying over the region
of the raid. The plane was the forward command post of the forces. The rear
command post was under the command of Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Moshe
Yaalon, and included the deputy commanders of the Navy and the Air Force,
as well as intelligence personnel. They followed the developments from
The process of taking over the ship was carried out in a surprise
fashion, which has not been revealed thus far. Within a minute, the ship's
control room, which was manned by two crew members, was in the hands of
Israeli Navy commandos.
The ship was quickly searched and the large cargo the Karine-A was
carrying was discovered. Five Palestinians were discovered on board, men
belonging to Arafat's naval branch, and they were under the command of the
deputy commander of the naval branch at Gaza who served as ship's captain.
Once the combing of the ship began, a great deal of varied weaponry was
discovered, all of Iranian make. The quantity and diversity of the weapons
prove beyond a doubt that the Palestinian Authority, which had purchased
the ship and the weaponry from Iran, planned to smuggle the cargo into the
Gaza Strip in order to create a new and significant threat to Israel. The
launching devices included Katyushas and many mortar launchers.
There is no doubt that the success of the operation cut short or halted,
for now, a new military move by Arafat. It seems that for the Palestinian
leader, words and actions are never in accord. On the very day that the
Karine-A was crossing the Bab el-Mindab Straits, Arafat sent an invitation
to President Katzav to speak before the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah.
On the one hand is the supposedly diplomatic aspect, including the
agreements with Zinni, and on the other hand the military aspect: practical
preparations for the next and more serious stage of the Intifada. For the
time being, this step was cut short. All thanks to a bold and complex
operation carried out flawlessly by IDF forces, 500 kilometers from a home
port, with the chief of staff selecting the method of operation which had
all the chances of success. During the operation itself, he emphasized
avoiding hitches and casualties, due to the distance form the home port,
and the combined operation of naval and air forces.
The takeover of the Karine-A was one of the most impressive operations
the IDF has carried out. It can easily be dubbed "The Navy's Operation
Arafat Wants a "Balance of Deterrence"
Ma'ariv (p. 9) by Oded Granot (news analysis) -- One need not leap to
far-reaching conclusions in view of the presence of a Hizbullah activist
aboard the Karine-A, aside from the simple fact that Hizbullah has long
been involved in smuggling weapons to the Palestinian Authority. Hizbullah
was also connected to previous shipments, which made their way to Gaza
thought the Mediterranean Sea, until that route was blocked by the Israeli
And one should also not get too excited by leaks by anonymous American
officials who told The New York Times yesterday that Hizbullah, not the PA,
was actually the final destination of the Karine-A.
Because Hizbullah, with its incredible arsenal in southern Lebanon, with
its arsenal of long-range Katyushas which can reach Haifa and Hadera, does
not need 60mm mortars, sniper rifles, RPG launchers, Sagger missiles, and
such a large number of guns that even by last night they had not all been
removed from the ship's hold in Eilat.
Nor does Hizbullah need the Iranians to cram all this cargo into 83
watertight pipes with specially marked floats, which the Gaza fishermen
could easily identify and pull from the water.
Nor does Hizbullah need the Palestinians to purchase the ship for it and
sail it for them, using Palestinian naval officers.
And there is a further long list of clear-cut and unequivocal evidence
which point clearly to the Palestinian Authority as the organization that
ordered the shipment and Iran as the main organization which provided the
shipment, with Hizbullah, as a front-line branch of Iran trying to get a
foothold in the territories, helping out and being involved.
The frightening shipment loaded onto the Karine-A was specifically
tailored for the Palestinian Authority to help it prevent future IDF raids
into Area A territories, on a tactical level; and to build a "balance of
deterrence" against Israel, on a strategic level, so that Israel would be
forced in the future to limit its military responses, as it is sometimes
forced to do with Hizbullah in Lebanon.
The timing of the embarrassing discovery, with General Zinni in the
area, was no less a blow to the Palestinian Authority as was the effect of
the bombing terror attack in Jerusalem and Haifa during his previous visit.
PA spokesmen vacillated this weekend between complete denials of any
connection to the ship, and delaying a response, by saying something along
the lines of: we'll look into it and check it out.
But the Americans, and of course Israel, expect answers. In view of the
clear-cut facts, Arafat may try to come clear of this affair by blaming
bodies subordinate to him which "acted without his knowledge." Security
establishment officials insist there is no way that Arafat could not have
Security Officials: "Arafat Knew and Approved"
Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 11) by Amir Rappaport et al. -- Very senior
Palestinian Authority officials who are very close to Palestinian Authority
Chairman Yasser Arafat were responsible for planning the large-scale
smuggling operation via the Karine-A ship. A senior security official said
that the chairman was personally involved in the details of the operation
and approved its various stages, including the tens of millions of dollars
to finance it.
Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz said yesterday, "The connection
between the ship's crew and the Palestinian Authority is unequivocal and
clear. The ship belongs to the Palestinian Authority, and senior officials
are involved in the [act of] smuggling."
Based on the preliminary questioning of the crew members on board the
ship, the following details have become clear: The ship was purchased by
the Palestinian Authority, was manned by a Palestinian Authority crew, and
was supposed to turn the weapons over to the Palestinian police near the
coast of Gaza.
The person responsible for financing the operation was Fuad Shubaki, who
is in charge of budget allocations for he Palestinian security troops. He
was responsible of the purchase of the weapons and the ship and for the
transfer of funds.
The operation's "operations officer" was Adel Mughrabi, chief
procurement officer in the Palestinian Authority's weapons procurement
department. Mughrabi was responsible for concealing the identity of the
ship and buying the plane tickets for the Palestinian crew, which flew to
its port of departure.
Mughrabi received the assistance of the commander of the Palestinian
Navy, Jumaa Ghali (Abu Zaki) and his deputy, Fathi Razem, in his talks with
Iran and Hizbullah.
The ship's captain was Omar Akawi, a colonel in the Palestinian navy. He
commanded another 12 crew members, three of whom are officers in the
Further proof of the link between the ship and the Palestinian Authority
was released on Thursday, once the IDF Naval Commando troops had completed
their seizure of the ship. PLO officials who knew about the smuggling
operation but not about the seizure, including the PLO's ambassador to
Cairo, waited for the ship on the Egyptian coast, where it was supposed to
The chief of staff said: "The Palestinian Authority is infected with
terror from head to toe. Had the weapons reached the hands of the terror
organizations, this could have dramatically endangered the lives of the
state's citizens. This operation saved human lives at an incalculable scope."
Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said: "The capture of the weapons
ship attests to the fact that the Palestinian Authority is leading a move
the entire meaning of which is war. When the weapons and means of
destruction are presented to the public everyone will understand what would
have happened had the shipment reached its destination. This seizure has
saved the lives of tens of thousands of innocent civilians." [ . . . ]
Karine-A: Facts and Figures
Today IDF to Present Weapons Seized
Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 5) by Amir Rappaport -- The unloading of the weapons
from the Karine A continued throughout the course of the entire Sabbath.
The troops began unloading the boat on Friday, a short time after the ship
arrived in the port of Eilat.
IDF soldiers removed from one container after another the weapons that
were stored in the hull of the ship, but the fatigue of the soldiers and
the fear that the weapons might explode as a result of a technical
malfunction or a booby-trap that had been placed resulted in a very slow
and careful unloading process. A preliminary examination indicates that the
ship held at least 50 tons of ammunition.
This afternoon Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is to take part in a press
conference that is to be held on board the seized ship. The IDF is expected
to present at the press conference the large quantities of weapons that
were seized in the operation.
Fifty Times More Weapons Than in the Santorini
Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 2) by Amir Kravitz -- Karine-A was not the first ship
attempting to smuggle weapons for the Palestinians that Israeli security
Some eight months ago troops, seized the yacht Santorini, which also
held large quantities of weapons that were on their way to Gaza. The
Santorini was picked up by an IAF reconnaissance plane as soon as it left
its port in Tripoli, Lebanon. IDF Navy boats allowed it to draw near the
coast of Haifa, just a few dozen miles off the coast, where it was stopped.
The Santorini was brought into Haifa, where large quantities of weapons
were unloaded. In that instance too, an attempt was made to smuggle in
Katyusha rockets to threaten major Israeli cities inside the Green Line.
The Palestinians claimed then, too, that the weapons were not meant for them.
Yesterday, security officials said they believed the number of weapons
on board the Karine-A was 50 times greater than the amount that the
The Naval Commando's "Entebbe"
Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 1) by Alex Fishman -- People in Israel have been
waiting for a long time for some sort of "Entebbe," something that would
bolster national pride, that would pick our morale up off the floorboards.
On Thursday we got a lot more than that.
The "Noah's Ark" operation may be less flashy than the Entebbe
operation, less titillating to the world, and its real heroes -- the naval
commando troops -- will remain anonymous. But this operation, the quick and
elegant part, gave life to the people who live in this country. And that is
not just a cliche.
Until now, only 58 out of the 83 containers that the Karine-A was
carrying have been opened. Inside have been discovered, among other things,
40 122mm Katyusha rockets that have a 20-kilometer range, 200 107mm
Katyusha rockets that have an 8-kilometer range, and 500 120mm mortar
shells. One does not have to be a great strategist to understand what that
means for the residents of the coastal plain, Afula, Hadera, Ashdod,
Ashkelon, Netivot and dozens of other communities. Had these weapons gotten
to the Palestinian Authority, most of the residents of Israel would have
been turned into hostages. The PA would have had Israel by the throat,
similar to the balance of terror that Hizbullah created along the northern
Furthermore, the first Katyusha rocket that would have been fired at an
Israeli city would have ended in war. An almost wall-to-wall consensus
would have been formed around that kind of Katyusha: There is no choice, we
have to re-conquer the West Bank. Those same people in the Palestinian
Authority who toyed with the idea of Katyusha rockets knew very well that
they were conjuring up a war, but now they are trying to cover their
tracks. The Palestinian version -- which some American administration
officials are inclined to accept for now -- is that the equipment was
earmarked for Hizbullah, and the Palestinians simply were providing them
with the transport services.
There are also efforts being made to obscure the weapons that were
seized. They tried to blot out the registration numbers on the weapons.
What would be Hizbullah's sudden interest in concealing the fact that it
receives its weapons from Iran? And if all these weapons were to be used
only by Hizbullah, why were they wrapped in special floating containers?
After all, they could be unloaded at leisure from the ship in any Lebanese
In the press conference he held on Friday, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul
Mofaz was adamant: The weapons were purchased by the Palestinian Authority
and were for the Palestinian Authority. The evidence in the hands of the
Israeli security forces clearly demonstrates the triangle:
Iran-Hizbullah-Palestinian Authority. There is no disputing the fact the
weapons are Iranian, and based on the evidence that has been released for
publication it is clear that the same PA officials who were behind
smuggling in the Santorini weapons ship that was caught by the Navy in May
2001 are also behind the Karine-A. At the center of this smuggling effort
by the PA stands a well-known figure from the PA's financial leadership,
Fuad Shubaki, the man who was in charge of financing the deal. The ship and
the equipment on board were bought by the Palestinian Authority with its
money. A senior Palestinian security official is involved up to his ears in
this affair. The captain of the ship and three of his officers who were
caught on board are members of the Palestinian naval police. So that the
claim that the weapons were earmarked only for Hizbullah is more than just
a little weak.
The Karine-A affair did not begin yesterday. It has been in the works
for months: Beginning with the acquisition of the ship, continuing with the
contacts made by Palestinian officials with Iranian intelligence officials
by means of Hizbullah so as to purchase the weapons. This was no random
purchase. The Palestinians decided precisely what kinds of weapons they
wanted and the amounts they wanted. They needed to establish a logistical
apparatus that would accompany the ship along its route through the various
ports. This is a complex operation that requires thought, planning, the
creation of a good cover story and a lot of money. This kind of operation
could not have existed without Arafat's office knowing about it. We are
dealing with a strategic decision and not with the smuggling of arms for
tactical purposes. The order for Katyusha rockets was placed long before
the IDF's forays into Area A. Someone in the Palestinian Authority was
planning the next stage in the struggle.
When American envoy Anthony Zinni heard about the weapons ship he did
not look surprised. "I knew that he (Arafat) is a liar," he said, according
to Israeli sources who were in his company. But the Americans have not lost
hope. There are some people in the State Department who believe that
Arafat's embarrassment will spur him to do something to create trust
between the two parties. Officials in Israel are less optimistic and speak
about the need to reopen and reexamine the entire array of relations with
the Palestinian Authority.
"It's in Our Hands"
Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 2) by Alex Fishman and Amir Rappaport -- It was all
over within eight minutes, without even a single shot having been fired.
The lightning-speed, "classic James Bond" operation, as it was defined by
one of the General Staff major generals, ended with a ship laden with
weapons intended for use against Israel captured 500 kilometers from the
The military operation began to roll a few months ago. Israeli
intelligence officials discovered that the Palestinian Authority had bought
a cargo ship, the Karine-A, in Lebanon several months before, with the
intention of using it to smuggle weapons that would be provided by Iran and
The person who put the plan together on the Palestinian side was Adel
Mughrabi, an operations officer and the chief procurement officer in the
PA's weapons procurement department, who has been acting on this issue
since October 2000. With the assistance of the commander of the
Palestinian Navy, Jumaa Ghali, and his deputy, Fathi Razem, he held talks
with Iranian and Hizbullah officials, formed a crew for the ship, appointed
a captain and coordinated the wrapping up of the weapons.
About a month ago various military elements began constructing
operational models for the capture of the ship. Some three weeks ago the
operation moved on to a new stage: The prime minister's military secretary,
Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, "snuck" three senior officers into the Prime
Minister's Residence through the back door. The officers were Chief of
Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Dan Halutz and Navy
Commander Maj. Gen. Yedidya Yaari. They came to discuss a classified
military operation: capturing the ship hundreds of kilometers from the
The three presented the prime minister with plans for the operation, and
Sharon approved them. The Noah's Ark operation went into operational mode.
The IAF and Navy began training in a number of elements: long-range
flights, aerial refueling, various take-over operations. One of the central
problems was the fact that the Devora coast guard ships that generally
patrol the Eilat area are not meant for long-range operations.
Nevertheless, a decision was made to set a new precedent and to use them.
A number of weeks ago the ship left the port of Hudida in Yemen. On
board were nine sailors, Egyptian and Jordanian, who saw stereo systems and
other electronic equipment on board and believed that they were working for
stolen goods smugglers. The ship was also manned by another four members of
the Palestinian Navy. One of the four was a member of Hizbullah. The
commander of the ship was Omar Akawi, a colonel in the Palestinian naval
In early December the ship set sail for the Iranian coast. On December
11 it was near the island Qeys, which is under Iranian control. It was met
by an Iranian ferry on board of which were Iranian intelligence officials
in the company of a top Hizbullah official, Imad Mughniya, who serves as
the liaison between Iran and the Palestinian Authority. The people aboard
the ferry loaded the weapons onto the boat. The weapons were wrapped in
special sealed containers that are manufactured in Iran only.
Some 50 tons of weapons were placed in 83 special containers. Among
other things in the containers were missiles that, if fired from PA
territory, could hit any point in central Israel. The containers would have
allowed what is known as "neutral floating," in which the containers float
just beneath the surface of the sea, when the only visible sign is a buoy
that marks the container's location. The Hizbullah official aboard the ship
was responsible for using this equipment since its operation is quite
According to the Palestinian plan , the ship was supposed to have sailed
to the port of Alexandria, at which point the weapons were to be
transferred to three smaller vessels. The smaller ships were supposed to
drop off the weapons a short distance from the coast of Gaza and el-Arish,
from which point it was to be picked up by the commander of the Palestinian
Israeli officials believe that most or all of the equipment was to be
placed in PA storehouses and a part of the weapons -- at the Iranians'
demand -- was earmarked for the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror
organizations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
After a technical problem the boat sailed back to Yemen, and then set
off again for its destination. On Wednesday the boat was about 500
kilometers away from the Israeli coast, opposite the Sudanese coast. This
was considered to be an optimal point for seizing control of the boat for a
number of reasons. In international waters it is more likely to be able to
operate without interference from a third party, there was relatively low
possibility of the troops being discovered, and the location was far enough
away from the final destination to assume that the people on board the ship
would still not be on high alert.
It might have been easier to operate in the Mediterranean, but IDF
officials wanted to refrain from an operation that would involve an
incursion into Egyptian territorial waters.
In the IDF, intelligence work continued and further bits of information
were put together to corroborate the fact that this was actually a ship
carrying arms. The Karine-A flew the flag of the African country, Tonga,
and Israeli officials were afraid that an international diplomatic incident
might be created if it turned out to be a merchant vessel raided by Israel
in pirate fashion. After a number of clarifications were made, there was no
Before the operation was launched, a number of Devora ships and the
mother command ship, with the deputy commander of the Navy on board, were
deployed in the area. The chief of staff, the IAF commander and the
commander of the Navy monitored the events from a command plane that flew
overhead above the Suez canal, when the Navy commander was the actual
commander of the operation.
The command plane was capable of monitoring all the internal
communication among the various combat soldiers in the course of the actual
operation. This allowed the commanding echelon to make decision in the
course of the operation itself.
At 4:00 a.m. Thursday morning the combined operation from the air and sea
began, with the troops in the field under the command of the commander of
the IDF Naval Commando. A transport helicopter suddenly appeared in the
sky, under the cover of two Apache, and hovered above the ship. Dozens of
commando troops shimmied down ropes onto the ship's deck. At precisely that
same moment, more Naval Commando troops climbed aboard the ship from the
stormy sea. These troops had made their way to the ship in small rubber boats.
As soon as the troops' feet were on the deck of the cargo ship, a race
against time began. The troops had to capture the 13 people on board as
soon as possible, take them off guard, without their understanding what was
happening. Indeed, 11 were caught while they were sleeping. The two men on
duty on the deck were not able to reach their guns in time.
The operation lasted eight minutes, a well-timed concert executed
professionally and precisely. Two minutes later, at 4:10, the chief of
staff placed a phone call to Tel Aviv: "It's in our hands." Talk on the
wavelengths was done sparingly so as to prevent anyone from tapping into
the conversations between the chief of staff and the "pit" in the General
Staff building. But everyone knew what the chief of staff was referring to.
The execution was perfect. It was time for a toast.
On Friday afternoon, the planes and helicopters that took part in the
operation began to return. The peak was when the commando ship returned to
its base in Eilat with the troops on board. Hundreds of vacationers along
the beach received them with a loud round of applause. A short time before
8:00 in the evening the Karine-A docked in the naval base in Eilat, with
the Israeli flag flying on its mast.
Four Palestinians are currently under GSS interrogation. The nine
Egyptian and Jordanian sailors will be released in the next few days
because they did not know about the weapons when they boarded the ship.
They said in their interrogation that at a certain stage in the sailing,
one of the weapons' containers broke and when they saw what was inside they
wanted to leave the ship. They said the Palestinians threatened to kill
them and they had to remain on board to complete the journey.
Yedioth Exclusive: IDF Naval Officer -- "We Surprised Them in Their Sleep"
Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 12) by Goel Beno -- "We knew what we were training
for, but only when we reached the beach, after the operation itself, did we
comprehend the magnitude of the issue," said one of the commanders of the
daring operation in the heart of the sea.
The commander, an IDF Naval Commando officer in the reserves, was called
up to serve some time before the operation.
"The operation was carried out at a distance of some 300 miles from the
Israeli coast," he related. "The weather wasn't good all the way, only
part. The surprise was absolute at the time of the seizure of the ship. The
members of the ship's crew who were awake were completely seized by
paralysis. We woke the others up. We blindfolded them and didn't let them
talk with one another. They were separated from each other. While not a
single shot was fired, we were compelled to use force and to take the wheel
from them. We figured that we would come under fire, and of course we
trained for that possibility. There is always backup and security, but no
one ever thinks of failure."
Despite the preparations the combatants made before the operation, they
too were surprised when they boarded the ship. They did not expect to find
so much weaponry on board. "We knew exactly what we were training for,"
said the officer. "But it was a surprise nevertheless. The amount of
weapons and ammunition surprised us too."
The officer, who has had his share of operations behind enemy lines in
the past during his many years of service in the naval commando, sounded
very pleased last night with the results of the operation. "In an operation
you don't think about anything except for the desire to succeed. You think
about the job that needs to be done, and everyone does their job
flawlessly. This operation, on the national level, is a rather big
achievement," he said with pride. "Until you set foot on the beach, this
business, from your perspective as a combatant and as a commander, is not
over. Only afterwards do you think of what you did, do you understand the
magnitude of the affair, and the satisfaction is great. This was not an
operation of lone wolves, like they think about members of the naval
commando, but absolutely a complex operation. In spite of the scope and the
difficulties, the success of the operation makes you feel extremely
satisfied when you know that the Israeli population was saved from all
those weapons and ammunition. The feeling is definitely superb.
"Most of the guys are in their compulsory service, youngsters. Very few
are reservists. But everyone is an experienced combat soldier. Today
everyone feels they contributed on the national level; they swap
experiences, jokes; there is a feeling of liberation, satisfaction and joy.
Only after everything do you begin to think about your family and friends."
On Friday, after the operation, when the officer returned to Eilat, he
called his wife, whom he met during his military service when she was a
secretary in the unit. After a long period of time in which he could not
tell her what he was training for, he asked her to turn on the TV and to
watch the news conference scheduled for the afternoon. After the broadcast,
she understood everything.
Question: What did your wife say?
Answer: "What could she say? 'Way to go, but I'm not built for that kind of
stuff any more.'"
Question: Do things go back to normal tomorrow?
Answer: "Yes, until the next operation, I hope."
Karine-A: Arafat's Part
Palestinian Naval police: Arafat's Elite Unit
Ma'ariv (p. 10) by Hanan Shlein -- The Palestinian naval police, A-Shurta
al-Bahri, is considered Yasser Arafat's elite unit, to which the chairman
of the Palestinian Authority assigns the most important missions.
Palestinian sources reported that this force, which Arafat established
decades ago, includes several hundred activists who were trained in the
military academies and navies of the Arab countries. The force is headed by
General Juma Ghali, whose headquarters are in Gaza. The force's official
mission is guarding the Palestinians' territorial water border in Gaza.
However, Palestinian sources say they carry out other missions as well, and
some even act as Arafat's bodyguards.
On occasion, the force was involved in attempts by terrorist groups to
bring in weaponry or terrorist cells by sea. Currently, naval police units
also operate in the West Bank. The unit's members, who have undergone naval
commando training, were posted mainly in Nablus as a special intervention
Palestinian sources say that the force possesses several rubber boats as
well as M16s, Kalachnikov rifles and machine guns.
The Mask is Torn
Ma'ariv (p. 1) by Binyamin Netanyahu -- The confiscation of the arms ship
has once again torn the mask off Arafat's face. Once again his method was
exposed: talking peace in the west and preparing a war in the east. Once
again it became clear that at his will he incites terrorism and at his will
he quiets it down, but that he is always preparing the next murderous
mission to serve his immutable goal, which is the destruction of Israel.
The IDF and the security branches, along with the prime minister and the
defense minister, deserve all possible praise for capturing the ship in
time, but what are the strategic lessons we should learn from this?
First of all, the terrible danger of the establishment of a Palestinian
state has been revealed once more. This will be a sovereign terrorist
state. If it is established, and with our consent yet, then we will not be
able to prevent arms ships, like the one discovered, from arriving at that
state day and night. Within a short time, it will have stockpiled arsenals
of weapons which will threaten every Israeli citizen and the entire state.
Therefore, in every possible scenario of the foreseeable future, Israel
must maintain full security control of the borders of the Palestinian
entity, and that does not, of course, fall in with an agreement to
Therefore, I have warned time and time again, since the Oslo Accords to
this very day, of the existential danger the State of Israel would face
with the establishment of a Palestinian state. Now, I say once more that
consent to the establishment of such a state, which was expressed by the
foreign minister and which received the prime minister's agreement, is a
fateful mistake which must be rectified immediately.
Second, we must understand once and for all that we cannot reach any
arrangement with Arafat. His promises and his signature are worthless.
Everything he says and does is intended to trick us into believing that he
and his mates are prepared to live peacefully by our side. His only goal as
the head of the PLO is to bring us to a situation in which the Arabs will
be able to destroy us.
Therefore, we have only one choice: topple his regime and destroy the
forces of terrorism. Only in that way will everybody who would come in his
place know that there is a heavy price to pay for terrorism against Israel
and that the plot to destroy us is a vain idea. Maybe then, the way will be
opened to reconciliation and peace between us and those among the Arabs who
still insist on trying to annihilate us.
The Iranian Connection
Senior Officials: Iran's True Face Exposed
Ma'ariv (p. 11) by Yoav Limor -- Israeli officials state that there is
"clear-cut evidence" of Iranian involvement in supplying the weapons
captured on board the Karine-A. In light of this, the prime minister, the
defense minister and the foreign minister plan to begin marathon talks with
leaders worldwide, demanding that they take action against Iran.
Peres even plans to demand that the international community add Iran to
the list of countries which support terrorism. "Most of the weaponry
discovered on the ship is Iranian," Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz
stated on Friday. "This shows a tight connection between the Palestinian
Authority and Iran and terrorist groups connected to it, which are
interested in Israel's destruction," he said.
"The Iranian connection" was revealed already at the beginning of the
investigation of the ship's crew. They said that the loading of the
weaponry was conducted under the supervision of "Farsi-speaking people,"
probably members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. In addition, the
containers in which the weapons were concealed carried writing in Farsi, as
did some of the weaponry itself. It is believed the 50 tons of weaponry
were loaded onto the ship at the Iranian island of Qeys at the beginning of
Israeli officials can point to a strengthening of ties between
Palestinian Authority bodies and Iranian government officials over recent
months, probably in an effort to get weapons. The Iranians also provided
the inspiration for previous attempts to smuggle weapons into the Gaza
Strip, including aboard the Santorini, which was captured in the
Mediterranean about six months ago, en route from Lebanon to Gaza.
Senior political and security officials said this weekend that exposing
"the Iranian connection" in the affair was "important in exposing Iran's
true face." A senior official also said that by smuggling the arms, Iran
was interested in "turning the entire State of Israel into the northern
border" and in putting most of Israel's communities within range of the
Today, the prime minister, the defense minister and the foreign minister
are scheduled to hold a series of talks with leaders worldwide and to
present to them the details of the affair, while demanding that they take
action against Iran. At the same time, the new information will also be
used in a PR and media campaign abroad.
Iran, for its part, denied once more yesterday any involvement with the
arms ship: "Israel's allegations are groundless. The Zionists are trying to
besmirch the image of the Intifada."
Israel and US Exchanged Intelligence Regarding Arms Ship
Ma'ariv (p. 10) by Ben Caspit et al. -- Israel and the United States were
completely coordinated in all pertaining to the Palestinian arms ship
Karine-A which was captured this weekend by Navy commandos, a senior
political source told Ma'ariv.
Israel and the US held close intelligence cooperation over the past two
weeks in all concerning the arms ship. Very senior Israeli figures briefed
the American CIA Director George Tenet and other senior Washington
officials on details regarding the ship and its crew. In return, the
Israeli officials received classified information from the Americans.
However, the Americans did not ask, nor were they informed in advance,
about the planned method of operation for capturing the ship.
On the night between Wednesday and Thursday, as soon as confirmation was
received from sea that the takeover of the ship had been completed, Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon telephoned Secretary of State Colin Powell and
briefed him about the details of the operation. Powell, say senior American
officials, was not particularly surprised by the news of the raid.
In light of the developments, the US made stricter demands of Arafat. In
a conversation between General Another Zinni and Yasser Arafat yesterday,
Zinni demanded that he "stop playing games and start waging a real war on
the terrorist infrastructure." Zinni, who already on Thursday received a
detailed report from the heads of the security establishment regarding the
ship's capture, arrived at his meeting with Arafat with a list of senior
Palestinian Authority officials who were involved in the financing and
organization of the arms ship. Despite this, the Palestinians continued
denying to him any connection to the ship.
An American source said that he US accepts the Israeli assertion that
Iran is behind the ship. However, a senior American source said last night,
"US intelligence was brought into he picture when the ship was already at
sea, so we don't have any independent information as to what exactly
happened before it left."
This morning Foreign Minister Shimon Peres plans to write a special
letter regarding the operation and especially with regard to the Iranian
responsibility. The foreign minister plans to send the letter to all the
world's leaders. Peres plans to make mention of the comment by former
Iranian president Rafsanjani that an atom bomb should be dropped on Israel,
and to ask the world leaders to view Iran as a country which supports
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