Israeli special naval forces on Wednesday morning intercepted a ship in the Red Sea carrying an Iranian arms shipment headed for the Gaza Strip, reports The Jerusalem Post.
Naval commandos from Israel’s elite Shayetet 13 unit boarded and took control of the Klos-C merchant ship, sailing under a Panamanian flag, at around 5 AM Wednesday. They encountered no resistance and there were no casualties reported by either side.
The raid took place some 1,500 kilometers from Israel in the Red Sea, off the Sudanese-Eritrean border. The IDF noted that the ship’s captain had tried to fool the IDF by not sailing directly from Iran, but first navigating to Iraq, and then to Sudan.
The preliminary inspection of the ship found several dozen advanced Syrian M-302 missiles with a range of 200 kilometers and a payload of up to 170 kilograms. The missiles were hidden in shipping containers carrying sacks of concrete. M-302 missiles were used by Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War to hit the Israeli cities of Haifa and Afula.
The ship is being taken to Israel’s Red Sea port of Eilat.
The IDF noted that though other Iranian arms shipments had been intercepted by Israel over past years, this shipment was significant due to “the lethality and quality of its cargo.” Previous shipments had carried primarily mid-range rockets, light-weapons, and ammunition. The Klos-C, however, carried missiles with a much larger range and warheads with a much heavier payload.
The ship had 17 crew members aboard who were apparently unaware of the ship’s arms cargo.
The ship had sailed from Iran ten days ago and was set to reach Sudan Thursday. From there, the arsenal would have been smuggled into Gaza via the Sinai Peninsula.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned Iran for its smuggling of lethal weaponry to Gaza. “As it conducts talks with [world] powers, as Iran smiles and utters pleasantries, the same Iran is sending lethal weapons to terror organizations… via an intricate network of clandestine global operations… in order to hurt innocent civilians,” he said.
“This is the real Iran and this country must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons,” he said. “We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect Israeli citizens.”
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said, “It has once again become clear that Iran continues to be the greatest exporter of terror in the world, with the express purpose of destabilizing the Middle East.”
“This Iranian attempt to transfer weapons to the Gaza Strip is additional evidence that Gaza is a terrorist entity under Iranian auspices preparing to strike deep into Israel,” he added.
“The operation was made possible by high-quality inter-community intelligence and high operative capabilities of the IDF” said an IDF spokesman, apparently referring to cooperation with non-Israeli intelligence agencies.
The raid comes one week after it was revealed that an arms shipment bound for Hezbollah, also believed to contain advanced missiles, was destroyed in Lebanon, presumably by Israeli air strikes.