JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the international community on Monday for turning a blind eye to Iran’s continued attempts to foment global terrorism. This followed the commandeering of a shipment of sophisticated Iranian missiles and other armaments that were hidden aboard the Klos C, a Panamanian-flagged freighter, by Israeli naval commandos. The freighter was en route to a drop-off point in Sudan, where Gaza-based jihadist groups were to take delivery of the illegal weapons cache.
At a presentation of the smuggled weapons to the international media at the Eilat naval base, Netanyahu said, “There are those who would prefer that we do not hold this news conference here today. They feel uncomfortable that we show what is really happening inside Iran. They prefer that we continue to nurture the illusion that Iran has changed direction. They’re not prepared to recognize that Iran, a brutal regime, has not abandoned its deep involvement in terrorism, its systematic efforts to undermine peace and security throughout the Middle East, and its ambition to destroy the state of Israel.
“The weapons on this ship were destined for terrorists in Gaza who are committed to Israel’s destruction,” Netanyahu continued. “The goal was to have these weapons rain down on the heads of Israel’s citizens. The ship was organized by Iran, dispatched by Iran, financed by Iran. The missiles were loaded by Iran in Iran. [And] as usual Iran denies these facts.”
In his briefing, Netanyahu expressed his appreciation for “the close cooperation of the intelligence services of the United States, which has verified all these facts.”
More than a month ago Israeli and American intelligence operatives began to track the shipment of missiles, which were loaded aboard Iranian aircraft in Syria and flown to Iran. From Iran, the missiles and other armaments made their way to Iraq, where they were loaded aboard the Panamanian freighter.
The Israeli and international media were given hints by high-ranking officers over a week ago that a secret Israeli mission could be underway. In a rare press briefing, the commander of Israel’s Dolphin submarine base in Haifa revealed that the submarine units were engaged in a variety of ongoing military operations, and that the base was being upgraded to accommodate two new German-built subs that would allow the unit to operate throughout the Middle East and beyond. It is believed that at least one of the fleet’s subs is currently operating in the waters between the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, and played a role in quietly tracking the Klos C freighter.
The M-302 missiles that were destined for either Islamic Jihad or Hamas in Gaza are even more sophisticated than the Fajr-5 rockets that were fired at metropolitan Tel Aviv in 2012 during Operation Pillar of Defense. According to the IDF the M-302s are medium-range missiles capable of hitting many Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. While the Obama administration has announced a transfer of $429 million toward the purchase of at least six more Iron Dome anti-missile systems, that weapon is not currently designed to handle medium-range missiles like the M-302. The IDF is set to deploy the first Magic Wand system, designed to engage medium-range missiles, early next year.
According to an IDF intelligence officer, an M-302 warhead possesses potentially catastrophic capabilities.
“The shipment would have equipped Gaza terrorist organizations with strike capabilities far exceeding those they currently hold,” the officer said. “We’re talking about weapons that are out of the ordinary, different from previous smuggling attempts. These warheads are far larger than other rockets currently present in Gaza.
“Take the rocket [Fajr-5] from Operation Pillar of Defense that hit a home in Rishon LeZion. That rocket destroyed an entire floor. This warhead [M-302] would have destroyed the entire building.”