JERUSALEM — Israeli naval forces raided a ship in the Red Sea early Wednesday and seized dozens of advanced rockets from Iran destined for Palestinian militants in Gaza, the military said.
The ship, the KLOS C, was carrying Syrian-made M-302 rockets and was intercepted more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) south of Israel off the coasts of Sudan and Eritrea, military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner told reporters.
He said the M-302 rockets have a range of up to 100 miles (160 kilometers) and would have significantly improved the capabilities of Gaza militants, putting nearly all of Israel in their range. Previously, Gaza militants have only been able to reach about 50 miles (80 kilometers) into Israel with their homegrown M-75 missiles. The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah used M-302s in a 2006 war against Israel, the military said.
There was no immediate comment from Iran or Gaza’s Hamas rulers about the Israeli claims.
The operation, codenamed “Full Disclosure,” followed months of intelligence gathering. Lerner said the shipment originated in Syria. From there the weapons were flown to Iran and departed from the Bandar Abbas port. Lerner said the Iranians tried to “obscure their tracks” by shipping first via Iraq and then out to sea. The shipment was destined for Sudan, from where it was to be moved overland through Egypt to Gaza, the army said. Israel says militants have used similar routes in the past.
Lerner said the 17 crew members of the ship, flying under a Panama flag, were not suspects and were probably unaware of the content of their cargo. The vessel was being brought to the port of Eilat, Israel’s most southerly point, where the crew would be released and the cache unloaded. It was expected to arrive later this week.