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Israel says it intercepted massive Palestinian weapons haul
By Steve Weizman, Associated Press, 1/4/2002 10:11
JERUSALEM (AP) Israeli commandos raided a vessel in the Red Sea, capturing 50 tons of Iranian-made weapons being smuggled in by members of Yasser Arafat's security forces, the army chief said Friday.
Arafat's Palestinian Authority denied any link to the shipment and said the Israeli announcement was an attempt to discredit it at a time when U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni is in the region trying to arrange a truce. Officials invited the Americans to join an inquiry into the allegations.
The vessel, Karine A., was seized Thursday in international waters about 300 miles from Israel's Red Sea port Eilat in a joint operation by Israel's navy, air force and intelligence services, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz told a news conference.
Mofaz said the ship carried 50 tons of mainly Iranian-manufactured arms and munitions, including long-range missiles, mortars, mines and advanced explosives weapons the Palestinian Authority is not permitted to have under interim peace accords with Israel. No one was hurt in the raid, described by Mofaz as ''daring and complex.''
The army chief said the Palestinian Authority was deeply involved in the smuggling effort. He said the vessel had been bought by the authority and the captain and several crew were members of the Palestinian naval police. He did not say where the boat's port of departure had been.
Mofaz said the interception was proof that the Palestinian Authority was ''infected by terrorism from head to toe.''
Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo dismissed the Israeli allegations as a ''theatrical game'' aimed at torpedoing Zinni's truce efforts.
''We insist that the PA has nothing to do with this ship, these allegations are false,'' he told reporters after the meeting with Zinni in Ramallah.
''We welcome a third party participation in the investigations,'' he added. ''We will start our own investigations and we want the Americans to be involved.''
The announcement came as Zinni held a second day of meetings in the region to try to shore up a cease-fire. Israel's allegations of involvement in weapons smuggling could prove deeply embarrassing to Arafat at a time when the Palestinian leader is trying to persuade the United States that he is make an intense effort to combat terrorism.
-- Anonymous, January 04, 2002