Israeli Navy intercepts missile-laden Iranian boat – proving the necessity and success of the Gaza blockade

An M-302 missile captured on board the Klos C ship

In a dramatic announcement yesterday we were informed that the Israeli Navy intercepted a boat laden with Iranian missiles.  Naval Commandos boarded the boat and discovered a haul that, if it had reached Gaza, would have had severe consequences for the lives of millions of Israelis since the missiles have a much longer range than anything we’ve seen until now.

The entire operation reads like something out of a thriller, from the moment the missiles were spotted being loaded onto trucks until the intercept in the Red Sea.

The IDF’s “Operation Discovery” took place in the Red Sea, 1,500 kilometers away from Israel and some 160 kilometers from Port Sudan. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz oversaw the raid.

Missile ships and navy commandos from the Flotilla 13 unit, backed by the air force, raided the Klos-C cargo ship, which was carrying Syrian- manufactured M-302 rockets.

The ship’s crew is in Israeli custody, and the navy is towing the vessel to Eilat, where it is expected to arrive in the coming days.

The rockets originated in Syria, according to Military Intelligence assessments. Iran reportedly flew the rockets from Syria to an Iranian airfield, trucked them to the seaport of Bander Abbas, and shipped them to Iraq, where they were hidden in cement sacks. The ship then set sail for Port Sudan, near the Sudanese-Eritrean border, on a journey that was expected to last some 10 days.

The convoluted route by which the missiles were shipped

Had the shipment not been intercepted, the rockets could have been unloaded at Port Sudan and taken overland, through Egypt into Sinai, and through smuggling tunnels into the Gaza Strip.

“This is the same known land route that the Iranians have been using to smuggle arms to Gaza,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said.

One day before the Klos-C reached its destination, the navy took control of it. There were no injuries, and the captain of the ship permitted the IDF to board without resistance, the head of the navy’s headquarters, V.-Adm. Yaron Levi, said.

The ship sailed under a Panama flag, and carried a crew of 17 from various countries.

[…]

Had the shipment not been intercepted, the rockets could have been unloaded at Port Sudan and taken overland, through Egypt into Sinai, and through smuggling tunnels into the Gaza Strip.

“This is the same known land route that the Iranians have been using to smuggle arms to Gaza,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said.

One day before the Klos-C reached its destination, the navy took control of it. There were no injuries, and the captain of the ship permitted the IDF to board without resistance, the head of the navy’s headquarters, V.-Adm. Yaron Levi, said.

The ship sailed under a Panama flag, and carried a crew of 17 from various countries.

The planned transfer of arms would violate UN Security Council resolutions, she said.

The IDF Spokesman’s Office said the operation was made possible by inter-agency intelligence cooperation and the military’s enhanced capabilities.

“This prevented the arrival of a shipment of deadly and advanced weapons, which was aimed at harming Israeli civilians, and intended to reach the terrorist organizations of the Gaza Strip that are waging armed confrontation against Israel,” the spokesman said.

The naval commando teams acted in accordance with international law during the raid, and boarded the ship for searches before uncovering the rockets, the spokesman said.

[…]

Ya’alon likewise noted that “this operation prevented a significant threat to Israeli civilians.

Not all of the weapons on the vessel have been exposed, and they would certainly have threatened millions of Israelis had they reached Gaza. What this shows, and it is clear, is that in Gaza we have a terrorist entity, an Iranian arm, certainly Islamic Jihad, which is funded, trained and armed by Iran. This also shows that we have an Iranian regime that smiles on one side – to the Western world, mainly – but also continues with its nuclear project and with developing long-range missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. It is also the No. 1 terror exporter in the world.”

Hamas, Islamic Jihad and smaller terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip are constantly working to build up their rocket arsenal.

Israeli intelligence estimated that at the end of 2013, Hamas possessed 5,000 short-range rockets that could threaten southern cities, and dozens of medium-range rockets that could reach greater Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, placing 70 percent of Israeli civilians in its range.

There are some 25,000 armed fighters in Gaza. Of those, 16,000 belong to Hamas divisions.

Islamic Jihad has 5,000 fighters, split up into five divisions, and more than 2,000 rockets. Smaller groups have more than 4,000 terrorists in their ranks, and dozens of rockets, as well as a large quantity of light arms.

In addition to replenishing its rocket arsenal, Hamas is trying to increase its capability to carry out terrorist attacks. It possesses anti-aircraft missiles, as well.

Watch as the IDF Naval Commandos (Shayetet) uncover the missiles (h/t Israellycool):

And again via Israellycool, here is an IDF video demonstrating the convoluted route the missiles had to take in order to be delivered to the terrorists in Gaza or Sinai:

Even though PM Netanyahu was in the US at the time of the intercept, he knew of the operation and approved it in advance. Israel also used its version of lawfare against Iran at the UN:

Netanyahu said that the goal in intercepting the ship was twofold: first, to prevent the Iranian- supplied missiles from reaching the terrorist organizations in Gaza and endangering Israeli citizens; second, “to reveal the true face of Iran.”

“I think this illustrates an important principle I repeat time after time, including in my meetings in the US with President Obama and in public appearances: Israel has the right and obligation to defend itself by itself against all threats. And I repeat, everywhere. That is how we have acted in the past, and how we will act in the future,” he said.

The second lesson, he said, “is that a nation like Iran, which is clearly a terrorist state, which sends the most murderous weapons to Syria, to Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist organizations – that state cannot have the ability to manufacture nuclear arms.”

With the experience of the botched interception of the Mavi Marmara in 2010 clearly on the mind of those involved in preparing Wednesday’s operation, Israel – according to government sources – was careful to plan the interception so that it took place in international waters, and also to give advanced warning to Turkey, Panama and the Marshall Islands, that it was going to board the ship.

“We followed international law to the letter,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said at an accountants conference in Tel Aviv. “The ship traveled under a Panamanian flag, the company was listed in Marshall Islands, the captain was Turkish and the crew was from various different countries.”

Government sources said that the communications with the Turks over the incident went smoothly.

Meanwhile, Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor issued a formal complaint to the UN Security Council over the incident.

According to a Foreign Ministry statement, Iran “repeatedly violates Security Council resolutions 1747 and 1929, which forbid it to export any kind of military material.” These two resolutions clamped sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear program.

Furthermore, by smuggling weapons to the Gaza Strip, Iran is in violation of Security Council resolutions 1373 and 1860, the statement read.

Security Council resolution 1373 is a counterterrorism resolution adopted two weeks after the 9/11 attacks and aimed at hindering terrorist organizations, and 1860 was adopted during Operation Cast Lead in 2009 and called for an immediate cease-fire.

“Iran continues to endanger international navigation routes and brazenly violates a number of Security Council resolutions with the aim of destabilizing the region and disseminating terror and war,” the Foreign Ministry said. “Smuggling is carried out by the ‘Quds Force,’ which is part of the Revolutionary Guards. This is a state branch operating under the authority and clearance of the Iranian government, led by [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani.

Here is Netanyahu commenting about the operation:

For all those who bemoan the deterioration of US-Israel relations, it is heartening to know that the US worked together with Israel to track the missiles:

The United States said Wednesday that its intelligence services and military worked with Israel to track the ship carrying an intercepted shipment of advanced Iranian rockets headed for Gaza. The ship was seized late Tuesday night by Israeli naval commandos, who found the M-302 rockets hidden in crates of cement.

President Barack Obama also directed the US military to work out contingencies in case it became necessary to intercept the vessel, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One.

“Throughout this time our intelligence and military activities were closely coordinated with our Israeli counterparts who ultimately chose to take the lead in interdicting this shipment of illicit arms,” Carney said.

“We will continue to stand up to Iran’s support for destabilizing activities in the region in coordination with our partners and allies,” he said.

“These illicit acts are unacceptable to the international community and in gross violation of Iran’s Security Council obligations.”

Despite our automatic assumption that the intended recipient of the missiles was Hamas, it appears that Islamic Jihad are the correct address:

“What has emerged from this operation is that there is a terrorist entity, an Iranian arm, that is funded, trained and armed by Iran,” he said.

In other words, the intended recipients of the missiles was Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group closely tied to Iran.

Much has been written about Hamas’ sorry state in the regional arena today. Its once solid relationship with the Syrian regime dissipated over the group’s support for the rebels seeking to oust President Bashar Assad. Hezbollah and Iran, both allies of Assad, followed suit and turned their backs on Hamas, and Tehran cut its financial support.

Tensions between Hamas and the new rulers in Egypt has been growing with each passing week. Just yesterday a Cairo outlawed the group in Egypt, branding it a terrorist organization. It is a far cry from the cozy relationship Hamas enjoyed with former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, Out of which Hamas grew.

The route of the smuggled weapons – from Syria to Iran, and then supposedly to Sudan and overland through Egypt and the Sinai into Gaza – strengthens the assumption that Hamas would not have been the final address. It is unlikely that Damascus and Tehran would make any effort to strengthen Hamas, and it’s hard to believe that Hamas, in its current weakened political situation, would risk the transfer of advanced rockets over Egyptian soil.

Unsurprisingly, Iran denies all knowledge of the missiles although the evidence is plain.

Range of the M-302 missiles

Ynet describes the missiles’ capability and range:

The M-302 has a range of 200 km (125 mi), and the missile is similar to those launched at Israel eight years ago during the Second Lebanon War.

The IDF emphasized that such missiles have significantly greater capabilities than those used previously by the terror organizations in the Gaza Strip.

[…]

The A model is the basic production of the missile. It has a range of 90 km if launched from sea level, and 100 km if launched from an altitude of 1,000 m or more. The rocket is capable of carrying a 170 kg warhead.

The B model is a missile with a 100 km range when launched at sea level, and as high as 115 km when launched from an altitude of one kilometer. The warhead for the B variety can carry a payload of 175 kg.

The C model is a missile with a 140 km range when launched at sea level, and as high as 160 km when launched from a high altitude. The warhead for the C variety can carry a payload of 140 kg.

The D model is a missile with a 160 km range when launched at sea level, and as high as 180 km when launched from a high altitude. The warhead for the D variety can carry a payload of 144 kg.

The E model is the most advanced missile, that has a range of up to 200 km when launched at sea level, and as high as 215 km when launched from an altitude of 1,000 m. The new model’s warhead can carry a payload of 125 kg.

It must surely be clear by now to everyone how necessary is the sea blockade on Gaza. It hardly bears thinking about what might have happened had the blockade not existed, or if the IDF had not been able to stop the shipment.

Kol Hakavod to the IDF, the Navy, the Shayetet, military intelligence, and every one who participated in this operation. Countless Israelis owe their lives to you.

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7 Responses to Israeli Navy intercepts missile-laden Iranian boat – proving the necessity and success of the Gaza blockade

  1. Betty says:

    Wonderful news. We can only hope and pray that the IDF have not missed any shipments or have neutralized the many that must be attempting to get through on every front.

  2. Joseph says:

    Great job, IDF!

  3. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Two further links (the impounded ship arriving in Eilat yesterday (Saturday) 8 March; & Chuck Hagel, US Sec of Defense praising Israel) posted in comments to “Good News Friday”, above.

  4. Pingback: The West’s hypocrisy at Iran’s cover-up of weapons smuggling to Gaza as well as its nukes | Anne's Opinions

  5. Pingback: Here we go again: Barrage of dozens of rockets from Gaza pound southern Israel | Anne's Opinions

  6. Pingback: Guest Post: Silver Linings to those Middle Eastern Clouds | Anne's Opinions

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