Israel says seized Gaza-bound rocket shipment from Iran

Photo: Israel says seized Gaza-bound rocket shipment from Iran
 / Iran

The Israeli navy seized a ship in the Red Sea on March 5 that was carrying dozens of advanced Iranian-supplied rockets made in Syria and intended for Palestinian guerrillas in the Gaza Strip, the military said, Reuters reported on March 5.

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 has dismissed the Israeli announcement as a "silly joke", the report said

"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.

There was no immediate comment from Iran or Syria.

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.

Iran had orchestrated the shipment, Lerner said, describing the process as months in the making. The Klos C was being brought to the Israeli port of Eilat where its contents would be more fully inspected and displayed to the public.

Lerner said the crew came from a number of different countries - but none from Iran - and there was no immediate indication that they knew the nature of their cargo.

According to tracking data, the Klos C was previously at Bandar Abbas port in Iran in early February 2014 and prior to that in Port Said in January.

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