Blast in Cyprus Caused by Iranian Weapons Shipped to Terrorists?
A devastating explosions at a naval base in Cyprus this week killed 12 people, injured 62 others and knocked out 50 percent of their electricity supply. The huge blasts occurred at a seized Iranian weapons cache. The blasts were so intense they completely destroyed the cache and blew out almost all the windows in a nearby fishing village called Zygi, which is a popular destination for tourists. Hours later fires were reportedly still raging. Journalists were prevented from reaching the Zygi or the naval base.
The blasts occurred in the containers of Iranian munitions seized from the Cypriot flagged vessel M/V Monchegorsk in January 2009. It was intercepted by the US navy in the eastern Mediterranean, from where it was taken to Cyprus. This story didn’t make much impact until a UN Security Council panel asserted that the shipment violated an arms embargo against Iran, adopted as part of a 2007 UN sanctions resolution. The resolution asserted that “Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer from its territory any arms and related materiel, and that all states shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran.” These sanctions were imposed due to their refusal to halt their nuclear programme or to facilitate UN inspection. The cargo of weapons was put into storage but the UN failed to dispose of it since that time.
Some media outlets reported that the Monchegorsk was actually suspected of carrying arms destined for the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas. The Wall Street journal reports:
The discovery of arms is worrying to Washington because the U.S. and Israel have long maintained that Iran and Syria supply Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza with armaments.
Iran has strong links with both Hamas and Hizbullah. On numerous occasions in the past Iran has attempted to supply Hamas and it also funds the running of the organisation. However, Iran denied the weapons were intended for either group, and reacted furiously to the interception of the ship bound for Syria, which is its principle ally in the region and a supporter of the same terror groups. Apparently the Iranian ambassador visited the Cypriot presidential palace for a meeting soon after the explosions.
French media outlet AFP reported that the weapons were stored in excessively hot conditions leading to concerns about their stability. Indeed this may of course be the cause of the blasts. However, it does seem rather coincidental that the explosions took place less than two weeks after Greece and the Republic of Cyprus took steps to prevent the flotilla sailing to Gaza, in part since it has been two and a half years since the cargo was seized. Hamas’ political elite in Syria strongly condemned Greece’s actions as “inhuman”.
The connection between Hamas and the Gaza flotilla has been noted by numerous sources including Iranian state channel Press TV, which reported collusion between the flotilla organisers and a leading member of the terror group, and Dutch Newspaper De Telegraaf.
Rob Harris is a Contributing Writer for The Propagandist