Israel fears that naval mines from Libya will be smuggled into the Gaza Strip and used by Palestinian terrorist groups to target navy vessels and civilian cargo ships.

The apprehension stems from intelligence reports indicating that large quantities of weaponry – formerly stored in Libyan military warehouses – have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip, including short-range Katyusha rockets as well as sophisticated shoulder-to-air missiles.

Libya has a significant arsenal of naval mines and in the 1980s was suspected of laying mines throughout the Red Sea, damaging close to 20 vessels.

Last April, NATO ships detected a number of Libyan boats laying mines near the port of Misrata by forces loyal to former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, in a move the western military alliance said was aimed at disrupting the flow of humanitarian aid into the country.

Three mines were discovered by NATO and the port was temporarily closed.

Egypt is also believed to be troubled by the possibility that naval mines will make their way to Gaza, since once placed in the sea – and if not anchored down – they could potentially drift into Egyptian territorial waters or international shipping routes.

Moreover, Egypt is concerned that the weapons could be supplied to global jihad elements operating in the Sinai Peninsula.

On June 29, Egyptian security forces announced they had seized a large arms cache that had been smuggled in from Libya and was bound for the Gaza Strip.

The cache included over 100 Katyusha rockets and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

In related news, Israel is keeping a watchful eye on Egyptian naval procurement.

The Egyptian Navy is, for example, purchasing two new submarines from Germany of a similar model to the Dolphin-class submarines in the Israel Navy’s fleet. Egypt is also receiving new missile ships from the United States.

Israeli-Egyptian military ties are ongoing despite the election of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi as the new Egyptian president. There is, however, general and long-term concern in Israel regarding Egyptian military procurement plans.

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