Israel Navy: Gaza-bound Anti-ship Missiles Found on Seized Ship

Navy deputy commander says the anti-ship missiles were smuggled from Iran to terrorist organizations in Gaza, warns missiles could have been used to strike both IDF and civilian ships off Gaza coast.

Israel Navy forces found several anti-ship missiles on board the "Victoria" ship, which was believed to be smuggling weapons from Iran to militants in Gaza and was seized by IDF forces earlier Tuesday.

 "The Israel Navy operation prevented the smuggling of weapons which had strategic importance to the Gaza Strip," Israel Navy Deputy Commander Rani Ben-Yehuda said Tuesday.

According to him, if the weapons were to reach terrorist organizations, they could have used the anti-ship missiles to strike Israel Navy ships as well as civilian ships in the Ashdod port.

Ben-Yehuda said that thus far IDF forces located two Chinese-made C-704 missiles with a range of 35 kilometers, noting the IDF believes that more missiles were hidden on the ship.The IDF estimates that the weapons and ammunition found on board the ship could reach 50 tons.

He said that weapons were smuggled from Iran to Syria where the ship collected them on its way to Turkey and then sailed to Egypt.

Ben-Yehuda also presented a Farsi-language manual for the missiles found among the ship cargo.

He stressed that he is convinced that neither Turkey nor Egypt knew what was hidden on the ship.

Elite troops from the Shayetet 13 naval commando unit took control of the "Victoria" ship earlier Tuesday without a struggle when it was around 200 nautical miles off Israel's coast, and towed it to the port in Ashdod.

The weapons smuggling shows an attempt by terrorist organizations in Gaza with Iranian and Syrian aid to improve their fighting capabilities against Israel's naval blockade.

In the Second Lebanon War, a C-802 anti-ship missile was fired by Hezbollah and struck an Israel Navy ship resulting in the death of four soldiers. Ben-Yehuda said he believed that the kind of missiles found Tuesday on the "Victoria" are already in the hands of Hezbollah, but not in the Gaza Strip.