The Iranian warships that had passed into the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal were harbingers of peace to the world, the chief of Iran's naval forces was quoted as saying by Israel Radio on Thursday.
The report came as Israeli intelligence services said Tuesday they were “closely monitoring” the progress of two Iranian ships which sailed through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea, en route to the joint exercise with Syria.
The intelligence services noted that while the ships do not represent any real threat to either Israeli vessels or Israel’s coast, they were being monitored because of the symbolic value of their passage and to ensure no attempt would be made “at an even greater provocation.”
Speaking of the controversial maneuver on Thursday, the commander of the Iranian navy Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, who had arrived in Damascus ahead of the joint drill, attempted to ease tension over the ships' journey, saying they were "carrying a message of peace to the nations of the world."
Israel Radio also quoted Iran's ambassador to Lebanon, who denied reports that the two ships were carrying advanced arms destined for Hezbollah.
The Iranian vessels, a frigate and a supply ship, were expected to keep to international waters as they make their way to the Syrian port of Latakia, according to Egyptian reports.
The ships entered the canal at 5.45 A.M. yesterday, and passed into the Mediterranean at 3.30 P.M., a source at the Suez Canal Authority told Reuters. “Their return is expected to be on March 3,” the source added.
The canal’s northern mouth, Port Said, is approximately 100 kilometers from Israel, but the ships’ route will take them into the Mediterranean along the coast of Gaza and Israel. The vessels are the first Iranian naval ships to enter the Suez Canal since the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon described the move as “an Iranian provocation,” speaking to Channel 2 television yesterday.
“When you look at the Middle East, wherever the Iranians weigh in, the situation is never good,” he said. “It certainly does not bode well, but these two ships are not an immediate threat against us.”
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now