Israel wants Turkey to impose blockade on Iranian arms
Intelligence believes nearly all weapons Iran provided to Hezbollah passed through Turkish air, sea space.
Israel wants the Turkish military to impose an air and ground embargo to prevent Iran using Turkish territory to send arms to resupply Hezbollah, a senior Israeli security source said on Thursday.
Israeli intelligence believes that nearly all of the heavy weapons that Iran has provided to Hezbollah passed through Turkish ground or airspace en route to Syria and then Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon, security sources said.
A UN-brokered truce to end a month of fighting between Israel and the Lebanese guerrillas went into effect on Monday.
The UN resolution called for an arms embargo against Hezbollah, which fired nearly 4,000 rockets at northern Israel, but did not spell out how it would be enforced.
The sources said Turkey was key because alternative arms shipment routes through Iraq and Jordan have been blocked. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because talks with the Turkish government were just getting under way.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev declined to comment specifically on the role that might be played by Turkey, a NATO member which maintains good ties with both Israel and Arab states.
But Regev said: "Successful implementation of the international arms embargo is the litmus test of the success of the UN effort in Lebanon."
Turkish officials had no immediate comment.
Israeli sources said at least two Iranian planes have been forced to land in Turkey in recent weeks after Israel told the Turkish military that they were carrying arms for Hezbollah.
The Hurriyet newspaper in Turkey said the planes were searched and no weapons were found.
Israel believes arms, including long-range rockets, have traveled across Turkish territory to Syria, before being shipped by land, sea or air to Lebanon, the sources said.
"We are urging Turkey to take all possible steps to prevent the transfer of arms from Iran to Syria to resupply Hezbollah," a senior Israeli security source said. "The very future of the embargo rests on their [Turkey's] shoulders."
Amman has already barred Iranian shipments from passing through Jordanian airspace, Israeli security sources said. Western diplomats said U.S. forces are preventing Iranian shipments from passing through Iraq.
"We may be facing in the next few days a Syrian attempt to resupply Hezbollah with rockets. What do we do? If we allow it to go in, this will be a defeat for Israel," an Israeli security source said.
Israeli officials have said the army will be entitled to use force if necessary to prevent arms convoys from entering Lebanon despite the ceasefire.
Officials said such operations, which could include air strikes, are "defensive" in nature and therefore permissible under the UN Security Council resolution that called for Israel to halt "all offensive military operations."
Turkey is expected to commit troops to a UN force in Lebanon which Israel hopes will help enforce the arms embargo. Muslim Turkey has the second biggest army in NATO and has long experience of peacekeeping from Afghanistan to Kosovo.
Officials have estimated that between 75 percent and 80 percent of Hezbollah's long-range rockets have been destroyed, though some Western diplomats were skeptical of the initial Israeli damage assessments.
The Iranian-supplied Zelzal-2 missiles have been Israel's main strategic concern. They have a range of 210 km, putting the Israeli commercial capital Tel Aviv within reach.
During the recent fighting, Hezbollah fired an Iranian-supplied C-802 missile at an Israeli navy vessel off Beirut, killing four sailors.