Asteris Masouras a Global Voices blogger from Greece shares a very shocking report. With the war raging in Gaza, news reports emerge earlier this month about the routing of an extraordinarily large shipment of arms from the United States to Israel through the Greek port of Astakos caused an uproar among Greek bloggers. They rallied together, investigated the issue and were able to exert enough pressure on the Greek government to halt the transfer.
The story emerged initially via a Reuters news report on 9th January
Reuters 9th Jan: The U.S. is seeking to hire a merchant ship to deliver hundreds of tons of arms to Israel from Greece later this month, tender documents seen by Reuters show. The U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) said the ship was to carry 325 standard 20-foot containers of what is listed as “ammunition” on two separate journeys from the Greek port of Astakos to the Israeli port of Ashdod in mid-to-late January. A “hazardous material” designation on the manifest mentions explosive substances and detonators, but no other details were given. “Shipping 3,000-odd tons of ammunition in one go is a lot,” one broker said, on condition of anonymity.
The ship hired by the MSC in December was for a much larger cargo of arms, tender documents showed. That stipulated a ship to be chartered for 42 days capable of carrying 989 standard 20-foot containers from Sunny Point, North Carolina to Ashdod. The tender document said the vessel had to be capable of “carrying 5.8 million pounds (2.6 million kg) of net explosive weight,” which specialist brokers said was a very large quantity.
In September, the U.S. Congress approved the sale of 1,000 bunker-buster missiles to Israel. The GPS-guided GBU-39 is said to be one of the most accurate bombs in the world. The Jerusalem Post, citing defense officials, reported last week that a first shipment of the missiles had arrived in early December and they were used in penetrating Hamas’s underground rocket launcher sites
At first the official Greek sources contested and denied the story from Reuters, but it was picked up by Twitter users and investigated after Indy.gr – an offshoot of the Indymedia Athens group published the translation locally resulting in a flurry of twitter messages like “Can we organize an embargo of the port of Astakos? Only the US and Israeli ships…”.
As the pressure mounted the Greek authorities were then found trying to cover up the shipment to issue statement stating that the shipping of arms through Astakos or other Greek ports is a “non-issue” and shrugged it aside by vaguely denying press reports to the opposite.
By then a Greek blogger Odysseas had located a solicitation for the shipment on a US federal website which goes to show that the cargo existed and was awaiting a transport contractor to ship to Israel, but after the mess hit the ceiling the US defense shipping contract stands canceled dated 16th January.
Guardian: US suspends munitions delivery to Israel: The Pentagon has suspended the delivery of a shipload of munitions to Israel after international concern that it could be used by Israeli forces in Gaza. The German-owned cargo vessel, Wehr Elbe, under charter by the US Military Sealift Command, is currently in Greek waters with its transponder tracking turned off to prevent its location being identified. Amnesty International has written to the foreign secretary, David Miliband, asking him to make “urgent approaches to the US, German and Greek governments to prevent this, or any pending or future shipments of weaponry until it can be verified that they will not be transferred to the Israeli Defence Forces or other parties to the conflict in Gaza.
The mystery investigation continued to get more interesting as Blogger coolplatanos investigated further, discovering an additional arms shipment solicitation, and verifying that the original solicitation was cancelled
… there was also a previous solicitation with a contract award date of December 6, 2008 (first published December, 4), again by the US Navy. This is another munitions solicitation, for a bigger load this time, since a vessel with a minimum carrying capacity of 989 TEUs was requested. In any case, today January 13 [09:00 EST], the solicitation page for the 325 TEU vessel was updated as “cancelled for the time being”. I looked up the above solicitations by improvising on Google search
Hats off to these activists for having possibly prevented and saved a few lives in the Israeli offensive on Gaza. Read more on the detailed investigation by Greek bloggers on Global Voices – Greece: Outcry over arms shipment to Israel