Better Than Hollywood
© January 2002 by Asher Intrater
Senior leaders in the Palestinian Armed Forces meet with Yassar
Arafat to propose a bold plan for acquiring weapons from Iran for a major attack
on Israel. Arafat gives approval. The plan is set in motion.
Tens of millions of dollars are given by Arafat to buy the ship and the weapons. Hizbollah takes the information to Iran. There, over fifty tons of weaponry and ammunition are prepared.
In Iran a special flotation device is designed whereby the weapons can be stored floating one meter below the surface of the water, with only an innocent looking buoy visible to the eye above.
A crew of Egyptians and Jordanians who apparently know nothing
of the plan are employed to take the ship to Iran. The commanders are all Palestinian,
officers in the Palestinian Coast Guard. The commander is Onar Akhavi, colonel
in the Palestinian Naval forces. They tell the crew that they are transporting
televisions, radios, and other electronic devices for sale.
Israeli intelligence pieces together the plan. The Karin A is to go up the Red Sea through the Suez Canal to Alexandria. There the 83 secret Iranian flotation containers will be transferred into three smaller ships. Those ships will take them off shore from Gaza and place them in the sea with only the innocent bouys showing above the water. From there, Palestinian Coastguard units will retrieve weapons and bring them into Gaza.
The most significant of the weapons were 120 mm katyushas with 20 km firing range. This would have effectively put all of the population of Jerusalem, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Ashdod, and Ashkelon under attack.
Israeli Commander-in-Chief, Shaul Mofaz, Dan Chalutz, commander of the Israeli Airforce, and Yedidia Ya'ari, commander of the Israeli Navy, are secretly brought in through the back door of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office. There they present to him the situation, along with their proposal for a commando takeover of the ship. Sharon approves.
Some consideration was given to wait until the weapons were distributed to the three smaller ships in Egypt, and then overtake them in the Mediterranean. However, that could have complicated issues with the Egyptians and possibly made it difficult to capture all the weapons once they had been transferred to the smaller units.
The other option was to overtake it in the southern part of the Red Sea, but that would require a much longer distance for the commando units to get to the ship and a variety of tactical difficulties. The Red Sea option was chosen.
On the Karin A's journey there is a slight accident and one of the weapons containers is opened. The Jordanian and Egyptian crewmembers see the weapons and are frightened. They all ask to be removed from the ship. The Palestinian commanders tell them if they try to leave they will be murdered.
As the ship enters the Red Sea, it stops briefly in Yemen for repairs, and then starts to proceed up the Red Sea.
For three weeks, the commando units of the Israeli Air Force and Israeli Navy have undergone intense training and simulations to ready themselves for the mission. The unit officer, (whose name has been withheld) who is on reserve duty, having led several successful operations in the past, is asked to come on board to lead the operation.
The first obstacle is the distance. They have approximately 500 km (a kilometer is 4/5th of a mile) to travel to arrive to the boat. A refueling operation has to take place along the way.
Time is of the essence. Some of the soldiers rush toward the control room. They get there before the crewmembers can get to their weapons. A brief hand fight breaks out, but no shots are fired. The Israeli soldiers take over the control room. There were only three crewmen there. The rest of the crew was still asleep. They are handcuffed in their beds, blindfolded, and separated from one another.
The commando units begin to bring the ship on its way toward Eilat. No one in the press is told. While the ship is on the way, the entire mission remains a secret.
By coincidence or no coincidence, General Zinni had arrived in Israel the previous day. Sharon briefs him about the mission. On Thursday, Zinni meets with Arafat and the heads of the Palestinian Authority. Still no one knows about the takeover of the Karin A. Arafat hears from Zinni's lips that the ship has been taken. His response is, "We know nothing about the ship." Zinni finishes the meeting with Arafat. At another meeting, Zinni whispered to one of his Israeli aides, "I knew he (Arafat) was a liar."
On Friday afternoon, the Karin A and the Israeli commando units arrived in Eilat. Hundreds showed up to cheer their arrival.
While the army was pleased with the commando operation, they were shocked at the quantity of the weapons found. The capture of the weapons has prevented a major outbreak of war here in the Middle East.
Some reports have tried to claim that the weapons were not intended at all for the Palestinians, but for Hizbollah. If so, why was the boat being commanded by a Palestinian colonel? And why were the weapons placed in secret flotation devices? If they had been meant for Hizbollah they would have been taken to Beirut and unloaded by cranes at the dock.
The capture of the weapons shows the link between the Palestinian Authority, the Hizbollah and Iran. What will the "anti-terror" international coalition have to say about that?
The attempt to smuggle weapons by the Palestinian authority proves that they have been lying all along about the intention to seriously fight terrorism or to go in the direction of a peaceable settlement with Israel.
On the way back to Eilat from the successful mission, the reserve officer that led the unit called his wife, who hadn't heard from him in a couple of weeks, and said, "turn on the news this afternoon and you will see me. I'll be home tomorrow." She said, "Well, I'm proud of you, but my nerves can't take any more of this tension."
General Chalutz stated, "We have moved another few inches the boundary of what was previously thought humanly possible for commando missions." "Classic James Bond action!" replied another of the joint-chiefs of staff.
Note: I pieced together the parts of this summary from the reports in the Hebrew press by various Israeli journalists, including Ehud Ya'ari, Roni Daniel, Alex Fishman, Nahum Barnea, Ron Leshem, Goel Beno, and others.
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