JERUSALEM: The Israeli military and police on Monday captured a boat on the Dead Sea which was trying to smuggle weapons from Jordan, and detained two Palestinians on board, officials said.
The boat was carrying a number of Kalashnikov assault rifles, magazines and other weapons, a statement from the army said, adding police were questioning two men, both of them Palestinians.
"A boat carrying a number of AK-47 assault rifles, magazines and additional weaponry was apprehended earlier today by the IDF and the Israel police," the statement said, describing it as an attempt to smuggle weapons into the Palestinian territories.
The Dead Sea is the lowest place in the world and it stretches some 70 kilometres (43 miles) along the border with Jordan, while its northern and western shores touch Israel and the West Bank.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP the boat had come from Jordan and said the two men on board were Bedouin, although he did not say whether they were of Jordanian or Palestinian origin.
"There is an ongoing police investigation involving a number of arms that were attempted to be smuggled from Jordan," he told AFP. "Two suspects have been arrested and are being questioned. The arrests were made this morning and a number of weapons were confiscated."
Israel’s army radio said the vessel was a dinghy that had come from Jordan and was trying to traffic arms into the West Bank.
Very few vessels are able to sail on the inland lake. Due to the density of the water — the Dead Sea has a salt and mineral content which is seven times more concentrated than sea water — boats float very high and run a considerable risk of capsizing.
It was not the first time the army has stopped a boat containing weapons on the Dead Sea, although such attempts are rare.
In October 2006, Israeli troops thwarted an attempt to smuggle weapons and drugs from Jordan into Israel via the Dead Sea.
A military patrol spotted an inflatable craft approaching from Jordan and gave chase, arresting the two men on board — an Israeli Bedouin from Khirbet Khasif in the southern Negev desert, and a Palestinian resident of Jordan.
Months later, media reports said the navy had started looking into the possibility of organising regular patrols on the sea in an bid to prevent the infiltration of people and weapons from Jordan into the Palestinian territories.
Because of the high salinity of the water, tests were being conducted to examine what kind of patrol vessel could withstand erosion from the salt, they said.
In February 1998, the Israeli army has arrested a Palestinian man after discovering a large quantity of arms on the northern coast of the Dead Sea which had been brought in from Jordan in two motor boats.