On Thursday morning, an Israel Navy force intercepted, boarded and took control of the cargo ship named “Tali” which was bearing the flag of Togo and was attempting to enter the port of Gaza.
The boat sailed from the port of Tripoli, Lebanon a few days ago, docking in Cyprus before continuing its journey to the Gaza Strip.
While at sea, Israel contacted the vessel, clarifying that it would not be permitted to enter Gaza’s coastal waters because of security.
The Israeli Navy operated under the assumption the ship carried weaponry destined for Gaza.
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Melkite Greek-Catholic Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, a native of Syria, was a passenger on the Lebanese vessel. The Melkites are an Arab Christian group that uses the rituals of the Greek Orthodox Church, but are part of the Roman Catholic Church.
Archbishop Capucci, now 84, who had been head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Jerusalem, gained notoriety 35 years ago when he was apprehended after smuggling weapons to Fatah terrorists in Jerusalem.
Israeli security arrested and deported him 32 years ago because of his involvement in terrorism.
In May 1974, three Katyusha rockets ready for launch were discovered in the near the United Nations headquarters in Jerusalem overlooking the Old City.
A day earlier, an explosive device had also been located in Jerusalem. That same month, three brothers were arrested for committing a series of terror attacks.
They admitted belonging to the Fatah terrorist organization and said that the munitions had been given to them at a school belonging to the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church in Beit Hanina.
Not long after that, Israeli security learned that the munitions, including the Katyusha rockets, had been smuggled to Israel from Lebanon by Archbishop Capucci, who had hid them in his car.
Israeli security placed the cleric under surveillance and arrested him on his way to Jerusalem.
In a thorough search of his Mercedes, four Kalashnikovs, two pistols, a package of plastic explosives, a hand grenade and more were found.
Archbishop Capucci claimed that the weapons had been placed in his car without his knowledge; however, a letter found among his effects had the phone number of a Lebanese terrorist, which revealed his terror connection.
Eventually, Archbishop Capucci admitted that he had used his position as a senior religious cleric to smuggle weapons to Fatah terrorists.
He was tried and sentenced to 12 years in prison and was released in Nov. 1977 following an appeal from Pope Paul VI.
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org