The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) says it intercepted an Iranian shipment of advanced weapons Wednesday bound for terrorist groups in Gaza that included long-range missiles capable of hitting anywhere in Israel.
“Iran attempted to smuggle tens of M302 surface to surface rockets to the terrorist organizations in Gaza,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the IDF who called the Israeli interception “a complex, covert operation.”
In the early morning raid, IDF naval commandos stopped the vessel the Klos C -- an Iranian ship sailing under a Panama flag -- in the Red Sea, boarded it and took over the controls.
The crew of 17 reportedly made no move to resist the boarding, and the incident ended peacefully.
The IDF posted this photo of one of the missiles, writing on Twitter, "Iran tried to send this missile & many others to Gaza terrorists. Israel stopped them."
The Times of Israel reported that Israeli security officials had been monitoring the progress of the ship for several days and that the interception occurred about 1,000 miles off of Israel’s coast between the naval borders of Eritrea and Sudan.
It further reported that the ship was heading to Sudan and from there the weapons – including missiles with a range of up to 125 miles - would have been smuggled, via Egypt, to terrorists in Gaza. The IDF posted this map of the ship's route:
"The M302 in its most advanced model can strike over 100 miles, and if they would have reached Gaza, ultimately that would have meant millions of Israelis under threat," Lerner told Reuters.
According to Israel’s Ynet News, the ship left Iran 10 days ago and was scheduled to reach Sudan on Thursday.
It quoted IDF sources who said that the rockets originated in Syria where Iran is believed to store large arsenals of weaponry including those intended for the Shiite militant groups Hezbollah.
“The rockets were flown from Syria to Iran, where they were loaded on the ship that then departed for Iraq where the arms concealed in boxes of cement,” Ynet reported.
Lerner told Reuters that the ship’s crew came from different countries and that there was no indication that they knew what the ship was carrying.