January 2, 2002
In December 2001, Israeli Intelligence monitored as a ship, the Karine-A, which had been purchased by the Palestinian Authority was loaded with weapons mostly from Iran. The weapons were concealed with a layer of civilian goods, such as clothes, rice and toys destined for Gaza via Yemen. Late in the evening of January 2nd, Israeli Navy Commandos took off in helicopters from Eilat towards the Red Sea in an effort to intercept the ship. With aerial cover provided by fighter pilots, the Commandos were able to overtake the ship, the Karine-A, just before dawn on January 3rd without firing a single shot. Fifty tons of Iranian weapons, including a number of long-range Katyusha rockets were found on the ship.
The Operation came during a cease fire in the Second Intifada which had been called by Palestinian Authority Yasser Arafat on December 16. Following the capture, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s spokesperson Ra’anan Gissin remarked, “While Arafat was talking about a cease-fire and peace, he was planning the next stage of the fighting, using the lull in the fighting to rearm, regroup, and prepare for an escalation once the fighting starts again.” (Arieh O’Sullivan, “Seized Katyushas would have put Cities at Risk,” Jerusalem Post, January 6, 2002, p.1.)
As a result of the seizure, Arafat received a publicity black eye of enormous proportions, and his utility to the negotiating process was once again questioned. Initially, Arafat denied any connection to Iran, only to recant several weeks later. Suicide and terrorist attacks against Israelis continue, prompting Israel to retake Palestinian cities and confine Arafat to his offices in Ramallah.
Photo Credit: IDF Navy Commandos during Operation Noah’s Ark in January 2002