A ship carrying advanced rockets and ammunition to Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza was captured by the Israeli navy in March. The successful military operation combined a high level of intelligence gathering with high-level operational capability. The capture went largely unnoticed, competing with headline news coming out of the Ukraine, but its importance is nevertheless significant—for Israel and the entire Middle East.
The ship, Klos-C, carrying the Panamanian flag, was loaded with 40 heavy rockets as well as a huge amount of ammunition. The weapons were quite the world travelers: made in Syria, then flown to Tehran, and then shipped to Sudan from where they were to make their way over land to terror organizations in Gaza with their final, violent destination, of course, being Israeli towns and villages.
The rockets are not game-changers. In fact, Hamas already has hundreds and perhaps thousands of other rockets with similar ranges and similar payloads. But this latest shipment certainly would have bolstered its capability to terrorize and kill Israeli citizens. Nor is this shipment a novelty in our region; it is the fourth large shipment captured by the Israeli navy in the last decade. One can only assume that other shipments, by sea or land, have made it through the Israeli and Egyptian blockades on Gaza.
There are, however, two important aspects to this particular shipment. One is that the weapons originated in Syria—the same country that is deeply entrenched in a civil war for the past three years. It is of interest that President Assad, while fighting the insurgents who are trying to topple his regime, is giving weapons to Hizballah in Lebanon and to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. It shows that he still has control, despite early forecasts that he would be deposed quickly; and it shows that he continues to play a significant destabilizing role throughout the region-at the behest or under the influence of Iran.
The second interesting aspect is that Iran is at the center of it. It is Iran that directed Assad to send weapons to Tehran, and it is Iran that exerted considerable effort in order to mask its involvement, hiding the weapons on board the ship under thousands of bags of cement (funnily enough, those bags of cement carried clear markings of "Made in Iran"-not exactly a top flight disguise).
Iran continues to show its duplicitous character by negotiating over its nuclear program with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (the so-called P5+1), while at the same time mounting a huge operation designed to arm terror organizations with sophisticated weaponry. In other words, Iran is trying to convince the international community of its good standing and peaceful intentions while giving rockets to terrorists in Gaza and in Lebanon. Unfortunately, the P5+1 negotiators, eager to reach an agreement with Iran on nuclear weapons, chose not to link or otherwise make a large issue out of this weapons shipment to Gaza. So while the capture of the Klos-C is a blow to Iran, that country can be expected to continue to do everything in its power in order to threaten Israel by proxy, from the south (Hamas) and north (Hizballah). The Islamic Republic will continue to send shipments in the hope that they manage to get through.
On the positive side, it is worth mentioning that in this area the interests of Egypt, now ruled by a regime that fiercely opposes the pro-Iran Muslim Brotherhood, are aligned with those of Israel. The Egyptian Army is clamping down on the border passage between Gaza and Egypt, knowing full-well that an armed, pro-Iran militia in Gaza, will be a destabilizing force for Cairo as well. The late March decision by an Egyptian court to execute 520 members of the Muslim Brotherhood is a clear sign that Egypt perceives that organization (and its ally, Hamas) to be a threat to its own stability.
Israel has shown once again that it has excellent intelligence organizations, instrumental in detecting threats long before they are imminent. It is also capable of carrying out sophisticated military operations hundreds of miles from its borders. But it is also clear that our enemies are certainly not giving up on their attempts to destroy the Jewish State. Thus, while we continue seeking peace, we must remain ever vigilant.
Ofer Bavly is the director general of the JUF Israel Office.