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Israel slams Ashton’s silence over Iranian arms smuggling

By Missing Peace
 Premier Netanyahu during his remarks at the press conference in Eilat

Premier Neatanyahu deplored he heard only ‘a few faint condemnations of Iran from the international community’ after Israel intercepted advanced weapons destined to Gaza terror organizations.

Netanyahu spoke on a press conference in Eilat where the Klos-C weapon ship was unloaded. (See the EIPA report below for other remarks made by Netanyahu in Eilat)

Although Netanyahu did not mention her name in Eilat, from earlier statements it has become clear that his criticism was meant for EU commissioner Catherine Ashton who was in Iran on the same day Netanyahu made his statements. Ashton who is always the first to criticize Israel over building in settlements and Jerusalem, kept mum on the latest Iranian attempt to smuggle weapons to Gaza.

During the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said he would like to ask Ashton “if she asked her Iranian hosts about this shipment of weapons for terrorist organizations”. Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz was even blunter in his criticism of Ashton. He told reporters that he would have expected the EU commissioner to either cancel or postpone her first trip to Iran since 2008.

He said that ‘the Iranian government was caught here in the very grave act of smuggling heavy missiles to terrorist organizations in Gaza, while abrogating all the UN resolutions that clamp an arms embargo to and from Iran’. He said that in this situation Ashton should have refrained from going to talk to the Iranians.

Meanwhile Iranian officials have become more vocal and more explicit in airing conspiracy theories regarding last week’s Israeli interdiction of the Klos-C, a Panamanian-flagged Iranian arms ship bound for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, with one military figure suggesting that “the Americans and the Zionists probably ordered (from) Hollywood the production of a movie with the scenario of a cargo ship carrying Iranian weapons to Gaza in Palestine.”

UPI quoted Iranian Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazzayeri making the accusation as part of a longer story detailing the weapons on board the ship, which included 40 M302 rockets with ranges capable of blanketing much of Israel, as well as “180 12mm mortar shells and about 400,000 7.62mm bullets.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had previously taken to Twitter to question the timing of the vessel’s interception, linking it to the annual AIPAC policy conference and describing the incident as the “same failed lies.”

Some Western media have bought into the Iranian propaganda. For example RTL News in The Netherlands suggested that the Israeli army lied about the range of the M 302 rockets that were found at the Klos-C. The RTL reporter wrote that they have a range of hardly 90 kilometer. He also called the media briefing in Eilat ‘a big PR show’ and claimed that the briefing and the ‘incorrect information’ that was distributed by the IDF ‘were only meant to depict Iran as the ultimate evil’.

Obviously the RTL reporter confused the home made Hamas M75 rocket, which indeed has a range of 90 kilometers, with the M-302 missile. Below are the ranges of the various types of this missile

– M-302 C: Has a strike range of 140 km (85 miles) from sea level, and a range of 160 km (100 miles) when launched from one kilometer above sea level. Its warhead is 140 kilograms.

– M-302 D: Has a strike range of 160 km (100 miles) from sea level, and a range of 180 km (110 miles) when launched from one kilometer above sea level, for instance. Its warhead is 144 kilograms.

– M-302 E: Has a strike range of 200 km (125 miles) from sea level, and a range of 215 km (130 miles) when launched from one kilometer above sea level, for instance from southern Syria or Lebanon. Its warhead is 125 kilograms.

Naive

Netanyahu has stepped on his criticism of the current effort to foster reconciliation and dialogue with Iran . It could be that he expected that the latest exposure of the ongoing Iranian effort to arm terrorist organizations by the IDF would make some impact on the West. He was wrong.

Yerucham Reich, a reader of the Jerusalem Post, put it this way:

“As many times as our naïve political leadership has ‘shown the world the true nature of those who wish to destroy us, that’s how many times those demonstrations and those proofs have been a waste of effort. The facts are irrelevant to the mindset of our international critics”.

 EIPA and TIP contributed to this report

Full EIPA press release

‘My message today is simple: those engaged in self-deception must awaken from their slumber,’ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Monday in Eilat as Israel’s defense Forces unveiled an arsenal of weapons that Iran tried to smuggle into Gaza.

The Israel Defense Forces (ID) unloaded in the Red Sea port the cargo of the Panamanian-flagged ship Klos-C that its naval commandos boarded last week off the coast of Sudan, displaying 40 M-302 missiles which have a range of 150km to 200km (93-124 miles), 181 mortar shells and 400,000 AK-47 bullets.

The IDF said the shipment would have equipped Gaza terrorist organizations with strike capabilities far exceeding those they currently hold. “We’re talking about weapons that are out of the ordinary; different from previous smuggling gat tempts. These warheads are far largest another rockets currently present in Gaza. Take the rocket from Operation Pillar of Defense that hit a home in Rishon Lezion. That rocket destroyed one floor. This warhead would have destroyed the entire building.”

The IDF released video presentations illustrating the circuitous 5,000-mile route that it says the weapons had been meant to take — starting in Syria, then to Iran and Iraq before heading toward Sudan and overland to Gaza — along with clips showing naval commandos discovering the rockets far out at sea.

“The weapons on this ship were destined for terrorists in Gaza who are committed to Israel’s destruction. The goal was to have these weapons rain down on the heads of Israel’s citizens. The ship was organized by Iran, dispatched by Iran, financed by Iran. The missiles were loaded by Iran in Iran,” Netanyahu told a press conference.

Netanyahu noted that the assorted rockets, mortars and other munitions could have reached Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and even Haifa.

He added : “There are those who would prefer that we do not hold this news conference here today. They feel uncomfortable that we show what is really happening inside Iran. They prefer that we continue to nurture the illusion that Iran has changed direction. They’re not prepared to recognize that Iran, a brutal regime, has not abandoned its deep involvement in terrorism, its systematic efforts to undermine peace and security throughout the Middle East, and its ambition to destroy the State of Israel.”

He criticized the “determination to ignore the truth, that was exposed once again with the capture of the ship”, calling it ‘hypocritical.’

He deplored that “at most I heard a few faint condemnations of Iran from the international community after we intercepted this murderous shipment.”

“We even saw representatives of the world powers shaking hands and smiling with the heads of Iran’s regime, at the same time we were unloading these missiles here in Eilat,” headed in a reference to the visit of EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Tehran.

Baroness Ashton is taking “nothing for granted” on a nuclear deal with Iran.

“By comparison,” he said, “if we build a balcony in a neighborhood of Jerusalem, we hear a chorus of vociferous condemnation of the state of Israel from the international community.”

On Sunday, the Israeli premier lashed out at Ashton’s visit in Iran, when he declared: “The goal of seizing the arms ship was to expose Iran’s true face. I say this in order to bring it to the attention of Ms. Ashton, who is now visiting Tehran, and I wish to ask her whether she asked her hosts about the shipment of weapons to terrorist organizations.”

The interception of the shipment of advanced weaponry to Gaza is not Iran’s first attempt at smuggling weapons. Here is a select number of cases:

Naval smuggling attempts:

1.In January 2009, the Cypriot merchant vessel Monchegors, which was en route to Syria, was called for inspection at Limassol by the Cypriot authorities. Upon boarding the ship, inspectors uncovered caches of Iranian weapons. The cargo was seized and confiscated in Cyprus until July 11th 2011, when it caught fire and spontaneously combusted.

2. On November 4, 2009, the Israeli Navy boarded the MV Francop, a merchant vessel en route to Latakia in Syria. Upon inspection, IDF forces discovered 500 tons of Iranian-made weapons, secreted away in 36 unmarked cargo crates. The shipment included various rockets, cannons, hand grenades and rifle ammunition – all disguised and covered up by sacks of ordinary supplies, in a similar method to that used on the KLOS-C.

The MV Francop ship

1. On March 15, 2011, Israel Navy commandos boarded the civilian vessel Victoria which was headed from Syria to the Egyptian port city Alexandria. The ship was carrying approximately 50 tons of concealed weaponry, including Iranian-made C-704 surface-to-sea missiles, mortars and ammunition. The shipment was intended for terror organizations in the Gaza Strip, such as Hamas and the PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad).
2. On January 22, 2002, Israel Navy commandos boarded the merchant vessel Karine-A which had been purchased by Palestinian owners in order to smuggle weapons from Iran to the Gaza Strip. The ship had loaded its cargo in Iran, sailed through the Persian Gulf and was stopped on its way to Israel – much like the KLOS-C. The Karine-A had was shipping 50 tons of weaponry.

Smuggling attempts via land:

On January and April 2012, Turkish authorities twice seized several trucks carrying contraband weapons on their way from Iran to Syria.

Airborne smuggling attempts:

The Iranians have long been utilizing the aerial route to Lebanon in order to smuggle weapons to the area in a quick and discreet way. For over a decade, the Quds Force and the Revolutionary Guard have been shipping weapons to Syria, primarily through the companies “Iran-Air”, “Mahan-Air”, and the government-owned company “Maaraj-Air”. Since the fighting in Syria started, Iran has been delivering weapons shipments on an almost weekly basis