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Israel says intercepted explosives off Gaza coast

Written by: Staff
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JERUSALEM, May 9 (Reuters) Israel thwarted an attempt by Palestinians to smuggle explosives to the Gaza Strip by sea from neighbouring Egypt last week, the military said today.

Israel quit Gaza last year after 38 years of occupation, but maintains control of the coastal strip's airspace and waters with the stated aim of preventing arms from reaching militants.

Concerns have mounted since one Palestinian faction recently added Russian-made ''Grad'' missiles to its arsenal of homemade projectiles. Palestinians call the escalation a response to Israeli army crackdowns in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

A military spokesman said the Israeli navy intercepted two Palestinian boats on May 3 after they loaded bags from a ship that had come in from Egypt. The delivery ship was not stopped.

''The cargo was thrown into the sea (by the Palestinian crew),'' the spokesman, Captain Jacob Dallal, said. ''Israeli naval divers searched and retrieved 550 kilos of military grade TNT.'' Five Palestinian crewmen were detained but released after interrogators determined that they did not know they were taking part in an arms-smuggling operation, military sources said.

The Palestinian Authority had no immediate comment.

REUTERS OM PC1900

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