Thursday, March 6, 2014

In seizing Gaza-bound missiles, Israel prevented a game-changer

The Iranian rockets were likely on their way to Islamic Jihad militants, not Hamas, to provide them with a capability to strike greater Tel Aviv.

By Amos Harel for Haaretz

Gaza-bound missilesOnly one thing went wrong during Israel’s naval raid in the Red Sea Wednesday morning – the timing. It’s easy to imagine that it was slightly disappointing, at least to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Had it taken place during his address to the AIPAC conference in Washington on Tuesday, he really could have gone to town. It was all there in a nutshell, everything Netanyahu has been warning us about for years: Iran, Syria, long-range missiles, the threat in the Gaza Strip. The axis of evil is alive and well, and against all the odds our brave warriors go forth and neutralize these threats far from Israel’s borders.

But the missed PR opportunity need not detract from the significance of the operation itself. Intercepting a ship carrying long-range missiles bound for the Gaza Strip was a first-rate accomplishment, from both the intelligence and the operational perspectives.

In Israel’s ongoing war to keep advanced weaponry from falling into the hands of terrorists, which has included air strikes attributed to Israel near the Syrian and Lebanese borders, this is an impressive success. It would not have been possible without the close coordination of the state intelligence agencies and superb intelligence analysis. Also critical to its success were the excellent operational capabilities of the Israel Navy in general and the elite naval commando unit Shayetet 13 in particular.

Another factor that must be considered is the calculated risk taken by the prime minister, the defense minister and the chief of staff. The Klos-C can be added to the list of boats that were successfully intercepted in the Red and the Mediterranean seas, including Karine A., Victoria and the Francop.

The volume of goods smuggled from Iran to the Gaza Strip has declined down in recent years, a result of naval interceptions and air strikes against weapons convoys in Sudan, attributed in the foreign media to the Israel Air Force.

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