As the war on terrorism continues, another ship was in the headlines last week. On January 3, the Israeli Navy seized control over the Karine A, which was sailing in international waters on its way to the Suez Canal. Its cargo contained long range rockets that could have been used to launch attacks against Israeli cities.
The Israeli authorities have now issued some details about the seizure, which was carried out by Israeli Navy and Air Force Units. Israel says the weapons the ship carried were intended for the Palestinian Authority.
The Israelis were apparently acting on U.S. intelligence--most likely gathered in the U.S. quest for ships controlled by Al Quaeda
The Palestinian leadership denied "any link or association with the smuggled weapons, which Israeli occupation authorities alleged to have seized in the middle of the Red Sea."
According to Israel, the ship's cargo included 50 tons of advanced weaponry including Katyusha rockets, rifles, mortar shells, mines and a variety of anti-tank missiles. Israel says that "senior figures in the Palestinian Authority were involved in the smuggling."
Besides weapons, says Israel, the shipment also included rubber boats and diving equipment, which would have facilitated seaborne attacks from Gaza against coastal cities.
"Preliminary investigation of the crew members," says Israel, "has revealed so far that the commanding officer of the ship is Colonel Omar Akawi. The ship was purchased by the Palestinian Authority, loaded with weapons by the Iranians and the Hizbullah, manned by Palestinian Authority personnel, with the aim of transferring the weapons it carried to the Palestinian Naval Police near the Gaza beaches."
"Since October 2000," continues the official Israeli statement, "Adel Mughrabi, a major buyer in the Palestinian weapons purchasing system (with the assistance of the Palestinian Naval Police Commander Juma'a Ghali and his executive Fathi Ghazem), has been in contact with the Iranians and Hizbullah regarding a vast weapons smuggling operation for the use of the Palestinian Authority. This operation included the testing and purchase of ships, forming a sailing crew and appointing a commander for the team, as well as making arrangements as to how the weapons would be stored, loaded onto the vessels, and its journey until delivery to the Palestinian Authority."
According to other reports, Adal Mughrabi is the head of the PA's procurement department and the 4,000-ton vessel was purchased in Bulgaria for $400,000. The purchase was allegedly financed by Fuad Shubaki, described as Yasser Arafat's senior finance official,and the ship was reportedly collected in Lebanon.
Israel says that preliminary investigation of arrested team members revealed that the Karine A was purchased by Adel Mughrabi in Lebanon and sailed to Sudan where it was loaded with regular cargo.
Its crew was then replaced with the smuggling team members and in November 2001 the ship sailed to Hodeida port in Yemen.
The Karin A first sailed to Port Sudan, where it took on a crew from Cairo. In Sudan, the ship was loaded with legitimate cargo, which was unloaded in Dubai. Last month, the crew received orders from Mughrabi to proceed to the Iranian-owned island of Qeshm in the Persian Gulf, where an Iranian vessel met with the Karine A and transferred 83 water-tight crates to its hold.
According to the Hebrew daily Ha'aretz, the nine Jordanian and Egyptian crew members were not told what they would be carrying. One of the men reportedly revealed that during the loading of the ship, a crate broke open, revealing an assortment of weapons. The seamen who saw the contents asked to be put ashore, but were reportedly told that from that point on, "there is only one way to get off the ship--with a bullet in the head."
From Qeshm, the ship set sail for the Suez Canal, after stopping for repairs in Yemen. According to the plan, the cargo was to have been transferred to three smaller vessels, which would set the weapons adrift in floating containers off the coast Gaza Strip, to be retrieved by the Palestinian Naval Police.
In December 2001, following "detailed instructions from Adel Mughrab," the ship sailed to, what the Israeli statement describes as "the beaches of Iran near Qeshm Island."
"There a ferry approached it, most likely arriving from Iran, from which the weapons stored in 80 large wooden crates were transferred and loaded onto the ship," continues the Israeli statement. "These weapons were stored in special waterproof containers produced only in Iran, which are floatable and are set with a special configurable system that determines how deep they are submerged, were prepared by Hizbullah personnel for smuggling to the Palestinian Authority. Included in the ferry team which transferred the weapons crates to the ship was also a Lebanese trainer, a Hizbullah operative who trained a diver from the ship's crew in configuring the floatation devices in Lebanon. The trainer was present for yet another refreshing training session prior to the sailing."
After loading the weapons, says Israel, the ship had to divert to Hodeida port in Yemen due to technical problems. After crossing the canal, the ship was supposed to meet with three smaller ships that were purchased in advance and to unload the weapons onto them.
According to the plan, says Israel, the smaller ships were to leave the weapons near El Arish in Gaza, where the weapons were to be taken by the commander of the Palestinian Naval Police Juma'a Ghali and his executive Fathi Ghazem
Northrop Grumman unit takes Sperry Marine name
Northrop Grumman Corporation today announced that its marine systems business unit, headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., has been renamed Sperry Marine, effective immediately.
Formerly Litton Marine, the business was acquired by Northrop Grumman in its purchase of Litton Industries Inc., last year.
Sperry Marine remains a business unit of the Baltimore, Md.-based Electronic Systems sector of Northrop Grumman.
George Perkins, vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman's Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance and Naval Systems, Division said, "Sperry Marine is a highly respected brand name that is recognized throughout the marine electronics industry worldwide. Its lineage dates to 1910, when Elmer Sperry invented the first marine gyrocompass."
Sperry Marine provides products for the international marine industry under the Sperry Marine, Decca and C. Plath brand names
ExxonMobil returns to Gibraltar
After an absence of two years, ExxonMobil Marine Fuels (EMMF), the world's largest supplier of marine fuels, has re-entered the Gibraltar bunker supply market. It has EMMF has secured availability of a full range of products, including fuel oil, diesel and gas oil, in Gibraltar.
Iain White, business development manager at EMMF, says, "Gibraltar is a strategically important center for the supply of marine bunkers. We are delighted to have re-established our presence in what is a vital part of the Mediterranean bunker supply chain, and look forward to welcoming both old and new customers to our facilities there."