Iran ship loaded with missiles to resupply Gaza?

Israeli spy satellites have spotted an Iranian ship being loaded with missiles that analysts say may be headed for Gaza, The Sunday Times reported.

According to the report, the cargo may include Fajr-5 rockets, like those that were fired by Hamas toward Israel and the stockpiles of which the Israel Defense Forces depleted during the recent round of fighting across the Gaza border, in addition to Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, which could be stationed in Sudan to pose a direct threat to Israel.

“With a lot of effort, Iran has skillfully built a strategic arm pointing at Israel from the south,” an Israeli source was quoted as saying.

The cargo would travel via the Red Sea, Sudan and Egypt, following a well-established route used by Iran to smuggle arms into Gaza, the Times reported.

“We believe that Iranian warships anchored in Eritrea will accompany the weapons ship as soon as it enters the Red Sea,” an Israeli source told the Times.

The shipment was reportedly prepared last week, at the same time as Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire that would end the eight-day long Operation Pillar of Defense.

“Regardless of the cease-fire agreement, we will attack and destroy any shipment of arms to Gaza once we have spotted it,” an Israeli defense source told the Times.

On Saturday, Reuters reported that senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar said Hamas would continue to arm itself with the help of Iran, though the truce signed in Cairo calls for a cessation of rocket fire at Israel, which Israel gave as its reason for launching its attacks in mid-November.
While Israel could hit the arms shipment in Sudan again, it would be within its rights to take out the Iranian ship carrying the missiles.  It is doubtful the current cease fire would last much beyond the resupply of missiles.

MSNBC reports:


Realizing that he was actually live on air, Sacks did not elaborate on his theory but Western intelligence agencies and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) do agree that longer-range rockets being fired toward Tel Aviv are Iranian-manufactured Fajr-5 missiles.

The Fajr-5s are assembled locally after being shipped from Iran via Egypt’s Sinai region from where they are smuggled into Gaza through tunnels, the IDF says on its own public information site.

Israel believes weapons travel via Sudan – a theory underlined when it launched airstrikes on an apparent arms factory there last month, killing two people.

On Monday, the Wikileaks site reposted on Twitter a link to a 2009 diplomatic cable, first leaked last year, detailing Israeli intelligence on how Iran was supplying Hamas with long-range weapons and how such artillery was being brought into Gaza. 
That viewpoint is shared by retired General Barry McCaffrey, a security consultant and NBC News analyst, who told MSNBC’s Alex Witt: “I think the Iranians have manipulated particularly [Lebanon-based] Hezbollah but also Hamas. They've equipped them with significant amounts of rocketry. One of the unclassified figures was 120,000 rockets in either southern Lebanon or Gaza in the range of Israel, so the Iranians are actively promoting trouble in Syria and Lebanon and Gaza.” 
Jane Kinninmont, senior research fellow at the British think tank Chatham House, told NBC News’ U.K. partner Channel 4 News there were some indications that shifting allegiances might point to Iran’s motives. 
"In the background, for more than a year, Qatar, Jordan and other Gulf states have been trying to prise Hamas away from its recent alliance with Iran in return for stronger support from the Arab world," she said. "Iran may be trying to wreck this by dragging Hamas back into a military conflict where it needs its Iranian rockets.” 
Supporting that theory, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency on Sunday accused Qatar of helping in the killing of Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari by planting spy devices in Gaza. It alleged that the emir of Qatar, King Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, distributed watches and ballpoint pens among Hamas leaders when he visited the area in October, and that those items contained transmitters that emit signals to Israeli satellites.
One of the reasons they have to be assembled locally is that they could probably not get them through the tunnels as easily if they were assembled and they would also be easier to spot.

If Israel does not want to take out the ships, it should consider capturing them.

The Qatar connection is interesting.  Qatar has been helping to finance teh beggar state of Hamas in Gaza.  I seriously doubt it is working with Israel, although it is no friend of Iran either.


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