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May 22, 2003

Perhaps these terrorists thought the road excluded the sea

Israel grabs arms boat; Palestinian PM meets Hamas

TEL AVIV, May 22 (Reuters) - Israel said on Thursday it had seized a boat off its Mediterranean coast carrying equipment for "terror attacks", and security sources said two Lebanese Hizbollah guerrillas were among eight arms smugglers arrested.

The army announced the seizure of the boat as Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas held his first talks since he took office with leaders of the militant group Hamas in an apparent effort to persuade them to halt attacks on Israelis.

The talks could raise hopes for an international peace plan called the road map. But the seizure of the arms would undermine the plan if it turns out the weapons were bound for Palestinian militants fighting for an independent state.

In a potential boost for peace hopes, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said U.S. President George W. Bush may hold his first summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Abbas.

"It is possible there will be a summit like that," Shalom told Israeli television following telephone calls by Bush this week to Abbas and Sharon to try to salvage the peace plan.

He gave no details and did not say where and when the summit might take place.

The army said in a statement the boat had been captured in the Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday near the port city of Haifa, about 35 km (21 miles) south of the border with Lebanon.

"On the vessel the forces found suspicious objects and evidence of the transfer of know-how and directives for carrying out terror attacks," the statement said.
Note: DEBKA has this to say:Israeli navy Wednesday intercepted boat smuggling Hizballah terrorists into Gaza Strip at Arafat’s request.

DEBKAfile reports exclusively: Captured aboard was Hizballah bomb specialist Hamad Amara bringing formula for secret super-powerful tank-busting explosive for handing over with special instruction to Fatah, Hamas and Jihad Islami terrorists in Gaza Strip.

Captured boat was Egyptian “Abu Hassan”. It was boarded by Hizballah fighters from Lebanese boat when two craft rendezvoused at sea.

Operation instigated by Arafat was directed by two aides: deputy Palestinian navy commander Fathi Razem and Palestinian Authority procurements director Adel el Mughrabi