“Everything you say is well and good, but we have no boat!” IDF Lt. Col. Naval Intelligence Counter-terror chief Yaron* exclaimed in frustration to his deputy, IDF Maj. Gal*.
Gal* (full names kept secret to prevent identification) had just updated him on the first intelligence breakthrough in the Karine A Affair, which would eventually change history.
In the affair, the IDF navy and air force units captured a large Palestinian Authority owned freighter in the predawn hours of January 3, 2002. The freighter was loaded with 50 tons of weapons, including long range rockets, from Iran with assistance from Hezbollah.
Had the weapons gotten through to PA President Yasser Arafat, he could have targeted larger cities like Ashkelon and possibly even Ben Gurion Airport with rockets, changing the entire balance of war and peace in the region.
The full riveting intelligence backstory about uncovering the well-concealed plot and finding (just barely) the phantom boat, included work between Israeli intelligence and the CIA. The story is being told now for the first time after its declassification by Israeli intelligence for a Hebrew book, also sponsored by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, about to come out called Drama in the Red Sea by retired IDF Brig. Gen. Amos Gilboa.
The Jerusalem Post recently interviewed Gilboa and received a copy of the book prior to its full release next month.
Israeli naval intelligence officers Yaron and Gal were speaking sometime between October 3-8, 2001 after having worked since August 15, 2001 on trying to put together a puzzle of some sort of major PA-related arms smuggling development.
Gal had just read on his closed-network computer intelligence reports that ship captain Omar Akawi, a lieutenant-colonel in the PA’s Coastal Police, was working in Sudan with Adel Mughrabi, a senior PA figure close to Arafat. Akawi, as well as Riad Abdullah, a top ship operator and a crew of eight Egyptians, were running PA weapons-smuggling operations.
Gal had deduced that Mughrabi’s involvement meant that the PA was involved in the smuggling operation at the highest levels and that others involved had connections to Iran and Hezbollah.
Next, based on Akawi and Abdullah’s involvement and the existence of a crew of at least 10 people, Gal knew that the PA planned to smuggle the weapons by sea using a large commercial ship.
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