Israeli navy seizes arms ship near Port Sudan
The Israel navy intercepted a ship that Iran reportedly was using to smuggle dozens of long-range rockets on Wednesday in the Red Sea, 160 km from Port Sudan.
The rockets originated in Syria, according to Israel's Military Intelligence. The smuggle route then led to port Bandar Abbas in Iran where the M-302 rockets were shipped to Iraq. The Klos-C cargo ship then set sail for a ten-day journey to Port Sudan, where it was intercepted by the Israeli navy in the Red Sea.
The rockets could have been unloaded at Port Sudan and taken overland through Egypt, into Sinai, and eventually through tunnels into the Gaza Strip.
A senior official at Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Sudan Tribune his country had nothing to do with the arms shipment Israel claimed to have seized, and accused Israel of “spreading lies”.
'Made in Iran'
Military footage showed the Israeli navy chief, Admiral Ram Rothberg, inspecting a rocket on the floor of a ship hold, with cement bags labelled "Made in Iran" in English next to it.
“This is the same known land route that the Iranians have been using to smuggle arms to Gaza,” Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon said. A senior military source told: “We have certain proof that Iran was behind this […] We found the rockets packed closely together on board.”
Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, Israel Defence Forces Chief, oversaw the raid. He said the arrival of M-302 rockets in Gaza, with a range of up to 200 km, would have had a “very serious impact on Israeli territory”. “I’m very pleased we were able to stop it”, Gantz said at a press conference at the Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv.
The cargo ship sailed under a Panama flag and carried a crew of 17 from various countries, who surrendered without resistance. They are in Israeli custody.
Smuggle route Syria-Gaza (IDF)
Sudan's smuggling activities
Sudan is believed to be a key staging post for weaponry heading from Iran to Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip. WikiLeaks documents published by The Guardian demonstrated that Sudan was warned by the United States in January 2009 to halt arms flights between Tehran and Khartoum.
In October 2012, the Sudanese government blamed Israel for the air strike causing an explosion in Yarmouk military factory in Khartoum.
Israel declined to confirm or deny Sudan’s accusations as was the case when Khartoum accused Tel Aviv of being behind two air strikes, in 2011 and 2009, in eastern Sudan against the smuggling of arms to the Gaza strip which is controlled by the Islamic militant group Hamas.
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