The Israel Navy will be tracking two Iranian warships as they make a rare crossing of the Suez Canal late Wednesday night and sail into the Mediterranean Sea.
The two ships will cross into the Mediterranean Sea on their way to Syria. Defense officials said that Israel would track the ships but that their presence in the sea would not change anything for the Navy’s operational deployment.
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“It is strange for the Iranian Navy to use the Suez Canal since it really doesn’t have anything to look for in the Mediterranean Sea,” one official said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called the planned crossing of the Suez by the Iranian ships a “provocation that proves that the overconfidence of the Iranians is growing from day to day.”
Speaking at a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, Lieberman lashed out at the international community which he said was regretfully not doing enough to confront the Iranian provocations. Lieberman also said he expected the world to "put the Iranians in their place. We are the true allies of the United States in the region, and the only ones that share its values."
“The international community needs to understand that Israel will not be able to ignore these provocations forever,” he said.
The Iranian Navy has a number of old frigates that were built in the United Kingdom in the 1970s. In 2010, Iran claimed to have launched a domestically manufactured multi-purpose corvette called Jamaran, which is believed to carry torpedoes, missiles and rapid-fire cannons.
In 2009, an Israeli submarine crossed the Suez Canal, in a move that was interpreted as an Israeli display of power in face of Iran’s continued development of a nuclear weapon. Israel is reported to have the capability of launching cruise missiles from its Dolphin-class submarines which could be used in the event of an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The Egyptian body that runs the Suez Canal denied the claim.
Ahmed el-Manakhli, head of the canal operations room, said warships must get permission 48 hours before crossing, and "so far, we have not been notified."
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an e-mailed statement that "Israel is closely following the movements of the Iranian ships and has updated friendly states on the issue. Israel will continue to follow the ships movements."
In Washington, the Pentagon declined to comment.
"It would be inappropriate to speculate about the future movements of another country's ships," said Marine Corps Maj. Chris Perrine, a Defense Department spokesman. "I recommend you contact the government of Iran."Associated Press contributed to this report.