Israeli navy commandos finally succeeded in commandeering a ship on the high seas without killing anyone. It was a German-owned cargo ship, the Victoria, which Israel claims contained a treasure trove of sophisticated Iranian weapons bound for Gaza. The vessel was bound for the port of Alexandria where it presumably, if Israel is correct, would’ve off-loaded its contents and proceeded to smuggle them into Gaza. This is generally how much of the arms entering Gaza find there way there. The ship had begun its journey at the Syrian port of Latakia, where the Israelis likely believe it onloaded the weapons which had likely been shipped there overland from Iran.
What astonished me though was this report from Channel 2 TV news military correspondent Roni Daniel ( in Hebrew, around the 6:00 mark), in which he noted that the entire arms shipment was under the supervision of a Ukrainian company based in Odessa. He took a question from the anchor asking whether the kidnapping of Dirar Abu Seesi was connected to this episode. Daniel replied that the answer wasn’t known, but the question was “complicated.”
If you consider that there has been a gag order invoked by the military censor on development of domestic reporting on this case, it’s clear that Daniel was leaked everything about this smuggling operation and its interdiction by the IDF including the alleged involvement of Abu Seesi. No Israeli media would report this sort of information unless they had the approval of the IDF to do so. You can see how much the Israeli army repsects its own gags when it’s convenient to ignore them.
So the IDF is planting the idea that Abu Seesi is involved in the arms shipment, presumably traveling to Ukraine on behalf of Hamas to deal with the smugglers conducting the operation. It’s a wonder they didn’t just smother him in the train carriage as they did Mahmoud al-Mabouh. But I guess Mossad learned its lesson from Dubai and thought extrarodinary rendition might be more palatable than murder.
It’s not clear whether this is a bluff and that the IDF is simply piggybacking Abu Seesi onto a convenient development like the Iranian arms seizure. This way the IDF gets to kill two birds with one stone. In that case, this would be just another one of those “flyers” the IDF takes casting out wild claims as fact and waiting to see who, if anyone bites.
Or perhaps, in the event this claim has any truth, Abu Seesi may play some role as a Hamas arms merchant. In that case, I suppose we should be grateful the Ukrainain security services and Mossad didn’t do an “al-Mabouh” on him and smother him in his railway carriage as he slept.
One question I would have about the claim is why would the Ukrainians have gone forward with the shipment if they knew Abu Seesi had been captured and handed over to the Mossad and Shabak. By February 24th, his wife was already claiming he’d been kidnapped by the Mossad. Presumably, any information the Gaza engineer had would then be exposed and would compromise the project. This part of the IDF story simply doesn’t add up.
This article first appeared at Tikun Olam