IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said Tuesday that Israel is acting far from its shores to intercept weapons headed to the arsenals of its enemies. Israeli military sources revealed the impact of one such dramatic interdiction.
Lt.-Gen. Ashkenazi warned in an address to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the Iran-backed Hizbullah terror organization in Lebanon is currently in possession of tens of thousands of missiles. In the past, it was reported that Hizbullah has replenished and extended its cache of weapons since the end of the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
The Chief of Staff also stated that Israel is working to stop the delivery of weapons to its enemies in locations far from Israel's borders. A case in point was last week's seizure near Cyprus of an Iranian weapons shipment bound for Syria, most likely destined for Hizbullah.
At the time, Ashkenazi revealed that the capture of the Francop arms ship on Wednesday was part of an extensive battle. The work that went into the capture of the ship included a widespread network, he added, including Israel's overseas intelligence agency, the Mossad.
Senior intelligence sources said this week that the weapons captured on the Francop, had they reached their destination, would have improved the amount of high-quality weapons the Hizbullah has at its disposal. Many of the long-distance mortar shells found on board the ship, for example, were produced as recently as this year.
While the amount of weaponry recovered from the weapons ship was originally characterized by IDF officials as "worth a month of combat" to the Hizbullah, IDF spokespersons this week released more precise descriptions of the missile cache. According to the information released thus far, over 2,800 missiles were removed from the Francop. That figure is approximately 70 percent of the total number of rockets fired at Israel by the Hizbullah during the 2006 conflict. More than one million Israelis were under Hizbullah attack during that conflict, with missiles reaching as far as northern Samaria.