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Monday, January 26, 2009

Iran's plans to re-arm Hamas

The Times of London buries some very good investigative journalism on the bottom of an article about US attempts to limit arms smuggling to Hamas:
A document circulated to ministers by Israeli military intelligence last week suggested that despite the bombardment, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is well advanced with a huge programme of arms resupply for Gaza.

According to the document, the Iranians are attempting to smuggle munitions from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, where the arms shipments are loaded onto commercial vessels.

In recent weeks at least two Iranian destroyers have been sent to the Gulf of Aden on the pretext of fighting piracy. The Israelis suspect that the destroyers, which are currently in port in Aseb in Eritrea, may have had some role in the shipments.

In January 2002, Israeli naval commandos stormed the Iranian cargo ship Karine A in the Red Sea. They found 50 tons of arms, long-range rockets and explosives being shipped to Yasser Arafat, then the Palestinian leader. Israeli defence sources believe the same route and methods are being used again.

According to the sources, once in the Red Sea the cargo is taken on one of two routes. The first is to dock in Somalia and Sudan, where professional smugglers carry the cargo overland to Sinai. In Sinai, Bedouin specialists smuggle the shipment into Gaza through the notorious border tunnels.

Despite intensive Israeli bombing, some tunnels remain open. Palestinian sources in Rafah, the Gaza Strip’s southern town, estimate that 100 tunnels are still in action, about 20% of the pre-war total.

A second arms smuggling route into Gaza has also been used by Tehran, according to well briefed sources. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has sent shipments through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean to anchor off the Gaza coast, inside Egyptian territorial waters, where the Israeli navy is barred.

After dark, Iranian frogmen transfer weapons in sealed containers to Palestinian fishing boats. This can prove dangerous as the Israeli navy may open fire without warning, but according to the sources it has worked well in the past.

The intelligence report suggested that Iran plans to ship Fajr rockets with a 50-mile range to Gaza. This would bring Tel Aviv, its international airport and the Dimona nuclear reactor within reach for the first time.

Maariv adds a couple of details on the Iranian frogman operation (via Daily Alert:)
According to an Israeli security source, the IDF has encountered Iranian-leased weapons ships anchored ten miles out to sea opposite Rafiah in Egyptian waters.

The weapons are packed in waterproof containers which travel under the surface. During the night, Iranian frogmen transport the containers and tie them to Palestinian fishing vessels located closer to shore.

The Palestinian vessels return to Gaza, towing the containers underwater to avoid detection.
Which means that the Free Gaza terror supporters are very possibly a part of a weapons smuggling ring when they board "fishing boats" to "protect the poor fishermen."

The Times also adds another tidbit, showing that Iran is repeating what it did in Lebanon after the 2006 war- trying to make Hamas into heroes by paying off the population:
Tehran has also promised to rebuild Gaza. Last week Hamas announced that every home-owner whose house had been destroyed would receive €4,000 (£3,820). The families of those who died will receive €1,000 and the wounded will receive €500.