The Israeli Navy sank a vessel suspected of smuggling “equipment” intended for the Hamas terror group off the coast of the Gaza Strip early Sunday morning, the military said.
According to a statement from the Israel Defense Forces, the vessel set sail overnight from the Sinai Peninsula through the Mediterranean Sea toward Gaza, entering a prohibited area off the coast of the southern part of the Strip.
“Navy soldiers called via loudspeakers to [the vessel], and when it did not respond to the calls, the soldiers fired in accordance with the open-fire policy,” the IDF said.
Footage shared on social media showed smoke rising from the vessel.
According to the IDF and Palestinian media reports, the suspects aboard the boat managed to swim ashore.
The IDF said “equipment” intended for Hamas was found aboard the vessel, without elaborating. An unsourced Ynet news site report said the military believed the boat was transporting ammunition and anti-tank missiles.
???? خاص صفا| قارب صيد فلسطيني دمّرته بحرية الاحتلال في عرض بحر رفح صباح اليوم بزعم استخدامه في نقل أسلحة إلى القطاع pic.twitter.com/37s8nUsKra
— وكالة صفا (@SafaPs) July 24, 2022
Earlier this year, the Navy foiled an attempt to smuggle weapon production materials from Egypt to Gaza via the sea. Three Palestinians, including one previously jailed in Israel for similar offenses, were arrested when Israeli troops stopped a vessel allegedly involved.
Israel has maintained a naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled coastal Strip since the terror group violently took over the territory from the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Israel says the measure is necessary to prevent Hamas from acquiring weapons from overseas. Humanitarian aid is transferred to the Palestinian enclaves through Israeli land crossings.
As part of the blockade, fishing boats and other seagoing vessels are required to stay close to the coast.