An Israeli source reports that the cache of Iranian missiles, en route to the Gaza strip that was intercepted earlier this week by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), would have sufficiently improved the arsenal of Palestinian militant groups. The anonymous Israeli source who released the report to TIME magazine stated that the arsenal, had they been successfully delivered to the Gaza Strip, would have provided Hamas with weapons that were far more destructive than the ones they currently possess.
The Klos-C commercial vessel, which was destined for the Eliat Port, was raided by the IDF earlier last week in a mission dubbed Operation Full Disclosure. During their raid of the Klos-C, the IDF found 150 containers with 40 M-302, Type A, ground-to-ground rockets with firing range capabilities of greater than 60 miles. The Iranian missiles, which were manufactured in Syria, are said to be able to carry upwards of 300 pounds of explosives.
The route that the Klos-C had taken was previously red flagged as it was used by other vessels on their way to Sinai, which had ferried in potential illegal migrants. This brought the vessel under surveillance of the IDF as it made its way past Sudan’s Red Coast. Israel says that the shipment came from Iran and was intended to reinforce the arsenal of Hamas, the militant Islamic group which maintains political control in Gaza. Both the Islamic Republic and Hamas deny being involved in any shipment exchange.
Peter Lerner, IDF Spokesman for International Media, tweeted his relief that, after walking through the hangar filled with rows of Iranian missiles intended for Gaza, he is happy to know that the IDF was successful in intercepting them as they now rest safely in Israeli hands.
Even with denials coming in from Iran and Hamas, Israeli officials state that the prospect of an arsenal of weapons, such as the one found aboard the carrier, falling into the hands of Palestinian militants is very discomforting. The official continued to articulate that these powerful warheads would have greatly empowered militants of the Gaza Strip. In previous major battles of Operation Cast Lead (2008) and Operation Pillar of Defense (2012), militants utilized warheads weighing 32 pounds. That is only 10 percent of the M-302’s weight.
The Israeli official explains that militant groups and terror organizations are now going to great lengths in order to obtain powerful strategic weapons, because the weapons used in previous conflicts caused little damage to Israelis as they only barely reached Tel Aviv. While the rockets that were found on the carrier were not accompanied with launchers, and even though the missiles themselves are not equipped with a guidance system their range is enough to pose a real threat to the Israeli population.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement following his speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) saying that while it was a relief that the IDF intercepted the Iranian missiles intended for Gaza, the shipment showed the true face of Iran. As news of Netanyahu’s statement was released, speaking on behalf of Iran, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted that the recent seizure of the rockets came at an opportunistic time for Israel, as they are currently preparing for their annual AIPAC anti-Iran campaign. Maintaining his position that the weapons were not shipped from Iran, he states that the interception by the IDF of these missiles is an amazing coincidence.
By Natalia Sanchez