Hezbollah denies connection to arms smuggling ship


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Hezbollah has denied any connection to a large cache of arms found on a ship intercepted by Israel.

Soldiers on Tuesday night boarded the freighter ship, flying the flag of Antigua, and discovered some 300 tons of arms and ammunition, including 3,000 rockets, disguised as commercial freight, according to the Israel Defense Forces. The ship, named the Francop, was stopped by a special naval force about 100 miles off the coast of Israel.

"Hezbollah denies any link to the weapons that the Zionist enemy claims it removed from the vessel Francop," the group said in a statement. "At the same time it condemns Israeli piracy in international waters."

The German-owned ship operated by a Cypriot company was en route from Iran to Syria with a planned stop in Beirut, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry. It carried arms including Katyusha rockets, assault rifles, grenades and mortar shells, as well as an advanced anti-aircraft platform, Israel Radio reported.

The Francop left Ashdod port on Thursday after the ship was unloaded. Thirty-two trucks were required to transfer the weapons seized from the ship to a warehouse in central Israel. The military determined that the crew did not know about the arms, hidden underneath regular cargo.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday invited diplomats from around the world to the port to view the weapons.

"The seizure of the ship was carried out as part of the navy’s ongoing intensive fight against terrorism and the prevention of weapons smuggling," an IDF statement said.

Syria and Iran also have denied Israel’s accusations, according to Reuters.


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