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Israel shows weaponry said to have been bound for Gaza

By Izzy Lemberg, CNN
Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Defence Minister Ehud Barak examine weapons seized from a ship bound for Gaza on Wednesday.
Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Defence Minister Ehud Barak examine weapons seized from a ship bound for Gaza on Wednesday.
  • Three containers of weapons found aboard ship Tuesday, officials say
  • Mortar shells, surface-to-sea missiles among weapons displayed
  • "Ultimate target was the Israeli civilian population," Netanyahu says
  • Israel
  • Iran
  • Gaza

Ashdod, Israel (CNN) -- The Israeli military displayed mortar shells, ammunition and surface-to-sea missiles in Ashdod on Wednesday, ordnance that officials said was seized from a ship bound for Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the weapons "originated in Iran, went through Syria, and they were en route to terror organizations in Gaza, but their ultimate target was the Israeli civilian population."

"Every day, new attempts are made by Iran and by Syria to smuggle weapons into Lebanon to Hezbollah, to Gaza to Hamas and to other terror organizations," he said.

Accompanying Netanyahu for the display were Defense Minister Ehud Barak and army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gans, among other officials.

Israeli commandos intercepted a ship 200 miles off the coast Tuesday. The "Victoria" is German-owned and Liberian-flagged, with an international crew.

The ship had 1,000 containers aboard, the army said, and three were found to be carrying the weapons. Israeli officials say the containers were loaded in the Syrian port of Latakia, where a false manifest indicated that they were carrying lentils.The ship made a stop in Turkey before heading for the Egyptian port of Alexandria, where the containers were to be unloaded.

Lt. Col. Avital Leibowitz, spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces, said the military believes that these weapons were intended to be smuggled into Gaza through the numerous tunnels between the Egyptian Sinai desert and the coastal strip, which is governed by Hamas.

Among the weapons were six C-704 surface-to-sea missiles with two launchers, along with a British-manufactured radar command and control system. According to Israeli military analyst Ron Ben Ishai, the introduction of this weapon would have added strategic significance to those battling Israel.

"Had this shipment gone through to Alexandria and then to one of the Palestinian organizations in Gaza, it would have given them the capability that does not exist today, that is, to hit the Israeli navy at a distance of 35 kilometers," he said.

Along with the missiles, the Israeli army says, it found 230 120-mm mortar shells, 2,200 60-mm mortar shells and 66,960 Kalashnikov rifle rounds.