Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Potentially Suspect Blast in Cyprus

On Monday the media reported a story about intense explosions at a naval base in Cyprus that killed 12, injured 62, and knocked out half the electricity supply. The incident has a connection with tensions in the Middle East because the blasts occurred at a cache of weapons seized from an Iranian vessel. The explosions were so intense they blew out almost all the windows of a local village called Zygi, a popular destination for tourists. Hours later fires were reportedly still raging and Greece agreed to send troops to assist the Cypriots. Journalists were not allowed to access Zygi or the naval base during this time.

The explosions occurred in the containers of Iranian munitions seized from a Cypriot flagged ship called the M/V Monchegorsk in January 2009. It was intercepted by the US navy in the eastern Mediterranean. 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. To quote the article by the Wall Street journal:

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 well known connections with Hamas and Hizbullah. 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 shortly after the explosions.

The Agence France-Presse 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". Both Greece and Cyprus are of course very closely linked.

Time will tell the cause of the blasts but a possible link with the Middle-East may become one line of enquiry, especially since Hamas’ political elite in Syria strongly condemned Greece’s actions as "inhuman", even though such expressions are to be expected. It should be noted that the connection between Hamas and the Gaza flotilla has been established by numerous sources such as the Iranian channel Press TV which reported collusion between the flotilla organisers and a leading member of the terror group, and Dutch Newspaper De Telegraaf.

Note: A similar article to the above by the same author was originally published at The Propagandist

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