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Israel 'received arms shipment'

Duraid Al Baik

: April 07, 2009, 23:09

Dubai: More than 300 containers loaded with US-made arms and munitions were delivered to Israel last month, according to a human rights activist.

Brian Wood, head of Arms Control Campaign at the London-based Amnesty International, told Gulf News that sources close to the rights group had reported about a German cargo ship, Wehr Elbe, which had docked and unloaded more than 300 containers at the Israeli port of Ashdod, 40 km to the north of Gaza last month, after which it berthed at the Ukrainian port of Odessa in the Black Sea.

"We are sure that the consignment contained arms and munitions." We have [a] strong suspicion that it contained white phosphorous which has been used against civilians in Gaza," he said.

"The cargo ship had been chartered and controlled by US Military Sealift Command. It left the USA for Israel on December 20, one week before the start of Israeli attacks on Gaza. The vessel was carrying 989 containers of munitions, each of them 20-feet long with a total estimated net weight of 14,000 tonnes," he said.

"The world community including the Palestinians should be able to know where the remaining 680 containers on board [the] Wehr Elbe have gone and why the US is not transparent about the final destination of the dangerous cargo.

"A Pentagon spokesperson confirmed to Amnesty International that "the unloading of the entire US munitions shipment was successfully completed at Ashdod on March 22," Wood pointed out.

The spokesperson had said the shipment was destined for a US pre-positioned munitions stockpile in Israel, he said. Under a US-Israel agreement, munitions from this stockpile may be transferred for Israeli use if necessary.

"There is a great risk that the new munitions may be used by the Israeli military to commit further violations of international law, like the ones committed during the war in Gaza," Wood said.

"Legally and morally, this US arms shipment should have been halted by the Obama administration given the extent of the evidence showing how military equipment and munitions of this kind were recently used by the Israeli forces for war crimes. Arms supplies in these circumstances are contrary to provisions in US law," he said.

The Wehr Elbe sailed from the US state of North Carolina on December 20, initially bound for the port of Navipe-Astakos port on the west coast of Greece. Its transponder signal disappeared on January 12 when the vessel was sailing near Astakos and when the ship was unable to dock due to a protest by the Greek Stop the War Coalition.

The vessel was then tracked as it passed through the port of Augusta, on the Italian island of Sicily, and then near Gibraltar in mid-February, before reappearing on March 23 en route from Ashdod to the Black Sea port of Odessa where it docked on March 26 in berth 7. Amnesty International is now aware that the vessel docked in Ashdod on March 22 and reportedly offloaded over 300 containers.





:: Article nr. 53230 sent on 08-apr-2009 03:06 ECT

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Link: www.gulfnews.com/region/Middle_East/10302245.html



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