Analysis: Intercepted Iranian weapons haul provides small glimpse of a covert war

On one side of conflict is Iran - transporting powerful arms to terrorist organizations sworn to jihad against Israel; on the other side are Israel’s intelligence agencies.

March 6, 2014 02:34
2 minute read.

Navy in action during Iranian arms ship seizure. (photo credit: IDF)


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The IDF’s interception of a ship that Iran sent to Gaza to deliver powerful rockets is a small glimpse into an ongoing, daily covert war.

On one side of this conflict is Iran, which is transporting powerful arms to terrorist organizations sworn to jihad against Israel.

Iran’s primary proxies today are Hezbollah in Lebanon – armed with 100,000 rockets and missiles – and Islamic Jihad in Gaza – armed with at least 2,000 rockets.

Hamas, which is in contact with Iran to see if their old alliance can be mended, has more than 5,000 projectiles, and its arsenal is growing.

On the other side of the conflict are Israel’s intelligence agencies – Military Intelligence, the Mossad, and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) – which use awe-inspiring and classified techniques to track the weapons’ movements.

The intelligence community ensures that the IDF General Staff has its finger firmly on the pulse of regional arms movements. When necessary, a decision is made to intervene and prevent weapons from reaching their destinations.

It is safe to assume that the public is unaware of the majority of such decisions, unlike the navy’s interception of an arms ship carrying M-302 rockets off the coast of Port Sudan on Wednesday, which was publicized.

With a range of 100 to 200 kilometers, these M-302 rockets would have been a serious boost to the ability of terrorist groups in Gaza to threaten millions of Israeli civilians. Seventy percent of Israelis are already in the range of Gaza’s rockets. Had the M-302 reached Gaza, that percentage would have gone up substantially, and terrorists in Gaza would probably have been able to fire at targets north of Netanya.

Islamic Jihad, which is Iran’s official proxy in Gaza, would likely have taken possession of the M-302 rockets, but the weapons may also have been destined for Hamas. Iran and Hamas have begun a dialogue to try to repair their divisions, which are rooted in their affiliation to opposite sides of the Syrian civil war. The rockets may have been meant to tempt Hamas to re-enter Iranian orbit.

It’s worth noting that despite the troubling terrorist arms race taking place on Israel’s borders, an even more dramatic process is taking place in Israel.

The Israel Air Force has revolutionized its weapons systems, allowing it to strike an enormous number of targets in a very short period of time with precision-guided missiles. This firepower, combined with an efficient ground offensive, and, of course, intelligence, is enough to keep Israel’s enemies deterred for now, and to limit them to pursuing an ambitious armament program.

Despite Israel’s considerable successes in this war-between wars, the rocket threat to the country’s soft underbelly – its cities, towns, and villages – grows.

It seems fanciful to believe that the day will not come when Israel’s deterrence runs out. On that day, the IDF will have to activate its unprecedented firepower, to spare Israeli civilians from the rockets and missiles that Iran and its affiliated organizations are preparing for them.

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