This story could have enormous ramifications in the Middle East:
IDF special forces on Wednesday intercepted a ship in the Red Sea carrying an Iranian arms shipment headed for the Gaza Strip.
Israeli naval commandos from the elite Shayetet 13 unit boarded and took control of the Klos-C merchant ship, sailing under the Panama flag, at around 5 a.m. They encountered no resistance and there were no casualties reported on either side.
The army said soldiers carried out a preliminary inspection of the ship and found several dozen advanced Syrian M-302 missiles, with a range of up to 200 kilometers (125 miles) and a payload of up to 170 kilograms (375 pounds). The missiles were hidden in shipping containers also carrying sacks of concrete.
The incident took place 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) from Israel’s coast, in the Red Sea, off the Sudanese-Eritrean border. Israel had been tailing the ship for several days before the operation was launched.
The ship had a crew of 17, who were being interrogated by Israeli security forces. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said crew members were apparently unaware of the ship’s secret cargo.
The vessel had reportedly set sail from Iran ten days ago and was set to reach Sudan tomorrow. From there, the weaponry would have been smuggled into Gaza.
The IDF said the ship was being towed to Eilat, a journey which would take several more days, where the ship’s cargo would be properly and extensively inspected.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz personally oversaw the operation and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was briefed on its progress as he toured the US.
Netanyahu commended Gantz and Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo for their efficient work.
“I would like to congratulate the IDF, Israel’s intelligence apparatuses and of course the commanders and soldiers of the navy who carried out a flawless operation to capture a covert Iranian weapons ship,” Netanyahu said.
“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 added.
“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 military said the operation originated several months ago, when IDF intelligence identified the transfer of Syrian M-302 rockets from Damascus to Tehran through Damascus International Airport. Intelligence officials found the move odd, as arms are usually transferred from Iran to Syria, not vice versa.
The shipment was then moved to Iran’s Bandar Abbas port and loaded onto the Klos-C. The ship initially sailed to the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr where it was loaded with containers carrying bags of cement, to help conceal the weaponry and blur its Iranian origin.
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