Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Israeli navy intercepts ship in Red Sea ''with rockets for Gaza''
(Photo Office Israeli military spokesman)
The Israeli navy seized a ship in the Red Sea on Wednesday that was carrying dozens of advanced Iranian-supplied rockets made in Syria and intended for Palestinian guerrillas in the Gaza Strip, the military said.
The disclosure came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in the United States to press his case for tougher international action against Iran over its disputed nuclear program and support for Islamist guerrilla groups.
The Panamanian-flagged cargo vessel Klos C was boarded in international waters without resistance from its 17-strong crew in a "complex, covert operation", military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner told reporters.
Lerner said dozens of M302 rockets were found aboard the Klos C, a weapon which could have struck deep into Israel from Gaza and would have significantly enhanced the firepower of the Palestinian enclave's Hamas rulers and other armed factions. The M302 in its most advanced model can strike over 100 miles, and if they would have reached Gaza, ultimately that would have meant millions of Israelis under threat," he said.
Hamas dismissed the Israeli announcement as a "silly joke". This is a new Israeli lie aimed to justify and prolong the blockade of Gaza," said Taher Al-Nono, an advisor of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
Military footage showed the Israeli navy chief, Admiral Ram Rothberg, inspecting a rocket on the floor of a ship hold, with cement bags labeled "Made in Iran" in English next to it.
Lerner said the rockets were flown from Syria to Iran, from where they were shipped first to Iraq and then towards Sudan. Had they reached the African coast, they would have probably been smuggled overland through Egypt to Gaza, he said.