Israel released a photo of what it said was a missile on an intercepted ship cargo that was bound for Gaza. The ship, identified as the Klos C and flying under a Panamanian flag, was carrying an Iranian shipment of advanced weapons destined for Palestinian militant groups in Gaza. The ship was carrying dozens of Syrian-manufactured M-302 rockets as well as civilian cargo of cement. According to the Israeli military, that type of rocket has a range of about 100 miles. Video footage and photographs from the ship showing the rockets were distributed by the Israeli military.
Israeli navy commandos boarded and seized the merchant ship in the southern Red Sea. According to senior Israeli officials, the ship was seized in international waters between Eritrea and Sudan. The location where it was seized is approximately 1,000 miles from the port of Eilat, Israel’s southernmost point. Israeli officials said that the ship was commandeered without violence. The crew of 17 seemed unaware of the vessel’s contents and cooperated with the Israelis. The ship was being escorted to Eilat, where it was expected to arrive in the next few days.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said Israel had been tracking the shipment for months. The weapons were initially transported to Damascus International Airport in Syria and loaded onto a plane to be flown to Tehran. On the next leg of the journey, they were transported overland to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas and shipped to Iraq. Then, the vessel was loaded with cement at the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr and set out to Port Sudan. At a news conference, Israel’s defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, said that the circuitous route reflected Iran’s intentions to smuggle weapons to Gaza “without Iranian fingerprints.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement, “At a time when it is talking to the major powers, Iran smiles and says all sorts of nice things. This is the true Iran, and this state cannot possess nuclear weapons. We will continue to do whatever is necessary in order to defend Israel’s citizens.” World powers are currently engaged in talks to curb Iran’s nuclear program.