Israel celebrates seizure of Syrian rockets bound for Gaza

Illustrated table comparing the M302 rocket to other home-made or smuggled rockets used by Hamas and other Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip. (Photo: Reuters)

By: Mohamad Bdeir

Published Thursday, March 6, 2014

Israel wanted a show more than a military operation, to be exploited to the maximum in lobbying against Iran. Cameras were ready at every stage of the operation to seize a ship loaded with Syrian weapons on their way to the Palestinian resistance. It was described as the biggest interception in the last year and a half.

Israel saw this as a resumption of the relationship between Iran and resistance factions in Gaza. However, this time there was something new that worried its analysts. According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, "the Syrians are devoting their efforts for such smuggling operations, despite the civil war in their country."

According to the Israeli account, a force made up of several sea vessels, headed by fighters from the Shayetet 13 marine commandos, raided a ship carrying an arms shipment making its way from Iran to the Gaza Strip.

The operation was conducted on the Red Sea at 5:30 Wednesday morning, around 100 km from Port Sudan, where the ship was scheduled to dock and unload its cargo, to then be transported by land to Gaza.

The seized ship with the arms cargo is a commercial vessel called Klos C, carrying a Panamanian flag and with a crew of 17, mostly from Turkey. According to preliminary investigations, the sailors were not aware of the Iranian cargo, which was camouflaged inside cement bags carrying the insignia, "Made in Iran."

According to Israeli sources, the seized cargo was made up of thirty M302 mid-range surface-to-surface missiles, in addition to other less important weapons and ammunition.

The operation was supervised by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Israeli Chief of Staff Moshe Gantz, who were present in person at the Israeli Army High Command in Tel Aviv.

Throughout Wednesday, Israeli television channels broadcast footage taken by the Israeli army on board the seized ship. One of them showed Israeli marines standing on top of a wooden cart with a rocket inside.

Israeli reports indicated the operation was due to sensitive intelligence concerning the smuggling of high caliber weapons to Gaza. Haaretz quoted a senior army officer saying that the missiles originated in Syria. He maintained that they were flown from Damascus airport to Tehran and then transported through trucks to Bandar Abbas Port on the Persian Gulf. They were loaded and camouflaged in containers, which were then loaded onto the ship. It first headed towards Iraq and then turned around and sailed to Port Sudan.

The Israeli officer indicated the shipment was destined to reach Palestinian organizations in the Gaza Strip. Smugglers were supposed to receive the shipment in the Sudanese port and then carry them through the borders to Eritrea, then to Sinai, then to Egyptian Rafah, and finally to Gaza. Statements and comments by army officials lacked any specifics about the organizations in Gaza were supposed to receive the shipment. However, another Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, said it was most likely destined for Islamic Jihad and not Hamas.

Yediot Ahronot's website indicated that discussions concerning the ship's interception started two weeks ago in the political and security mini-cabinet. It held a series of intensive meetings, which lasted for hours and forced the ministers to change their daily schedules.

According to the site, intelligence about the operation was presented in the meetings, in addition to potential options. They also discussed the concerns and complications that usually accompany such operations. The ministers were asked to endorse a number of plans and decide on how the army should act to control the ship, in light of fears about the presence of many pirate ships in the area where the operation would take place.

Once the operation was announced midday Wednesday, Israeli officials began making statements focusing on Iran's role in the smuggling operation. "At the same time that it is talking to world powers, at the same time that Iran is smiling and saying all kinds of honeyed words, that same Iran is sending lethal weapons to terrorist organizations and it is doing so in a complex web of covert, worldwide operations," said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was on a visit to the United States.

A rocket that could destroy a building

The M302 missile, allegedly seized by Israel in the dozens from Klos-C, is a surface to surface missile, which Syria began developing in the 1990s. It produced several models varying in terms of the size of the warhead. According to Israeli media reports, the model intercepted on Wednesday was an A302, which is five meters long and with a total weight of 500 kilograms. It has a range of 90 kilometers and carries a 170 kilogram warhead.

Israeli experts maintained the seized rockets are very similar to those launched by Hezbollah in the direction of Haifa, Hadera, and Afula, in the "second Lebanese war" in 2006. Tal Inbar, head of the Space and UAV Research Center at Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies in Israel, said these rockets can reach most of the inhabited areas in Israel. This means that millions of Israelis will be under the threat range of the rockets, including those in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Dimona.

"A strike by this type of rocket could be very hard... It could destroy an entire building," Israeli analysis said. "If the smuggling operation had succeeded, we would be speaking of a new balance of deterrence, where the [Palestinian] organizations would be able to make Israel think twice about any military operation in the Gaza Strip."

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

ON HOW TO CEMENT POWER
Israel wants to derail the Geneva talks and has a long history of provocations to deter diplomacy. The State Department said the US helped Israel by providing information on the ship. Still, the main writer of the PR campaign's script is IDF intelligence. Israeli intelligence started the story when it identified a transfer of Syrian made M-302 rockets flying from Damascus International Airport to Iran, several months ago. That is unusual. Weren't arms transfers taking place from Iran to Syria, not vice versa? The shipment was intercepted by the Israeli navy in the Red Sea, on its way from Iran to Sudan. Still, the vessel's last port of call was in Iraq. From the Iranian port Bandar Abbas, it proceeded to the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. The M-302 rockets were already covered by helpfully labeled 'Made in Iran' cement bags, but the vessel went to Iraq next to pick up more cement on top, Iraqi cement, also destined for Sudan, while that country has lots of cement production itself and exports cement to the extent of 4.5% of GDP. Sudan does not import it. This whole story sucks. The most amazing thing is that Iranian Quds Force intelligence supposedly smuggled the M-302 rockets via an Iraqi port that is secured by USA forces. Strange Mossad machinations. Considering America's intensive intelligence presence in the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, the most intriguing question is what exactly took place there.

Looks like Allah didn't want the thugs of Iran and Hamas to terrorize innocent people.

They are good
Very good

Iran, Syria and Hizbollah keep getting less effective

Zionists are very good in mass-murdering unarmed people. They are afraid of people who could fight back. Zionists run from Hezballa without their boots LOL

Zionist colony on Palestinian land will be in the same dustbin as "Rhodesia" soon,

more entertaining than nuttyahoo's UN comic show

Israel is back to piracy.boarding a civilian ship with humanitarian aid for Gaza.

Hahaha - humanitarian aid for Gaza? By way of Iraq and Sudan? If it were humanitarian aid, it could dock in Ashdod, Israel, be off-loaded and sent via the UN channel just as thousands of tons of goods are done each and every day. With the Egyptian destruction of tunnels, how exactly would they get the "humanitarian" items through, huh? Well, I doubt the rest of the world would consider cement used for terror tunnels instead of residential homes to be "humanitarian aid" so your claim is moot.

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