A ship that was searched by U.S. forces in the Red Sea last week with a suspected Iranian arms shipment bound for Hamas militants in Gaza is searched by authorities.
A ship that was searched by U.S. forces in the Red Sea last week with a suspected Iranian arms shipment bound for Hamas militants in Gaza arrived in Cyprus on Thursday and was being searched by authorities, an official said. The Cypriot-flagged container ship was docked in the southern port of Limassol, where it had arrived after a stop in Port Said, Egypt, the senior Foreign Ministry official said on condition of anonymity in keeping with ministry rules.
He said the search would not be completed until Friday morning.
On Tuesday, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said his country had done all it could to intercept the ship's suspected arms shipment to Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, but its hands were tied.
Mullen said the vessel was stopped in the Red Sea last week carrying Iranian arms, and U.S. authorities suspect the shipment was ultimately bound for Gaza, where Hamas and Israel are observing an uneasy truce after three weeks of fighting.
"The United States did as much as we could do legally," Mullen said Tuesday. "We were not authorized to seize the weapons or do anything like that."
The U.S. Navy searched the ship with permission of the captain and found small munitions, U.S. military officials said.
The vessel was allowed to continue its voyage, and Mullen said it was expected in port in Syria.
Israel launched a 22-day offensive late last month on Hamas-controlled Gaza to try to end years of militant rocket fire on Israelis and to halt the smuggling of arms that turned Hamas into a threat to much of southern Israel.
The Cypriot Foreign Ministry official said Thursday that the ship docked in Limassol was the one that U.S. authorities had stopped in the Red Sea. He said Cypriot officials did not know whether the ship had offloaded anything during its stopover in Egypt but that the search would determine what it was carrying.