The MV Francop is a German-owned, Antigua and Barbuda-flagged merchant cargo ship. In November 2009 the Israeli navy boarded the vessel in the Mediterranean Sea, suspecting that it was carrying weapons destined for Hezbollah from the Islamic Republic of Iran in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701. Hundreds of tons of weapons were found on the ship, which was then directed to berth in Israel.
Built by Sietas of Neuenfelde and completed in August 2003, the ship was launched as Tavastland. It measures 137.50 metres (451 ft 1 in) long, with a beam of 21.30 metres (69 ft 11 in) and a draught of 7.47 metres (24 ft 6 in). Its MaK 9 M 43 diesel engine can reach a speed of 18.5 knots (34.3 km/h). The ship has sailed under both the German and the British flags and is currently under the flag of Antigua and Barbuda. It is currently owned by the German company Francop Schiffahrts GmbH & Co. A Cypriot company, United Feeder Services, operates the vessel.
On 4 November 2009, in an operation named Operation Four Species, Israeli navy commandos of Shayetet 13 boarded the ship in the eastern Mediterranean Sea without resistance, acting on intelligence reports which it had received. The ship was about 160 kilometres (86 nmi) off the coast of Israel, near Cyprus. A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the ship was carrying "dozens of shipping containers, carrying numerous weapons, disguised as civilian cargo among hundreds of other containers on board". The IDF also claimed that the weapons originated from Iran and were to be directed to Hezbollah. The navy said that the crew was not aware of the purported smuggling and cooperated with Israeli commandos. After the boarding, the Israeli Navy directed the ship to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where a thorough inspection was held.
According to the IDF, the ship picked up the cargo in Damietta, Egypt; the cargo arrived in Egypt on a ship that sailed from Bandar-Abbas, Iran on 25 October. The ship was then set to sail to Limassol, Cyprus and then Latakia, Syria. The IDF suspects that the cargo was intended for Hezbollah, which fought Israel in the 2006 Lebanon War. Following the war, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 forbade the shipments of arms to Hezbollah.
An Israeli naval official claimed that the amount of weapons found is ten times more than that found during Operation Noah's Ark. The arms shipment weighed 320 tons and were held in containers marked with Iranian shipping codes. The seized weaponry included 9,000 mortar shells, thousands of 107-mm Katyusha rockets, 600 122-mm rockets, and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition. The arms shipment was the largest ever seized by Israeli authorities.
On 5 November 2009, ambassadors and diplomats from 44 countries and military attaches from 27 armies in the world were invited by the IDF and the Foreign Ministry in order for them to be witnesses of the many weapons and accumulation of ammunition that were found on the Francop ship.
- 2006 Lebanon War
- Operation Noah's Ark
- United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701
- Annie Larsen
- Boka Star
- Chong Chon Gang
- Victoria Affair
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- "9277412". Miramar Ship Index. http://www.miramarshipindex.org.nz. Retrieved 6 November 2009. (subscription required)
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- "Israelis 'seize Iran arms ship'". BBC News. 4 November 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8341737.stm. Retrieved 4 November 2009.
- Amy, Teibel (5 November 2009). "Hezbollah denies link to arms ship". Google News. https://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h3S0DqyLu9CfgcBASy2XHOGCk0IAD9BPAIG80. Retrieved 5 November 2009.
- Pfeffer, Anshel (4 November 2009). "Israel seizes ship in Mediterranean carrying more than 3,000 rockets". Haaretz. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1126069.html. Retrieved 4 November 2009.
- Greenberg, Hanan (4 November 2009). "Navy: 10 times more arms on ship than on Karin-A". Ynet. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3800306,00.html. Retrieved 4 November 2009.
- Katz, Yaakov (5 November 2009). "The haul: 320 tons of Katyushas, other rockets, shells and bullets". The Jerusalem Post. jpost.com. http://fr.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1257455195197&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull. Retrieved 6 November 2009.
- "Ambassadors, Military Attaches Witness Weapons Seized from Francop". IDF. 5 November 2009. http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/News/today/09/11/0505.htm. Retrieved 5 November 2009.
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