Thursday, March 06, 2014

Israel exposes what world refuses to see

Yoav Limor
After the successful capture of the weapons shipment bound for the Gaza Strip, it was hard to miss the Israeli frustration on Wednesday evening: the world, especially the Western part of it, still refuses to see what was exposed as Iran's mask was ripped off.
It comes as no surprise, but still. As reported, Israel was involved for the second time in a week in actions countering weapons smuggling originating from Tehran: once on dry land, via Syria, to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and once by air and by sea -- also via Syria -- to terror groups in Gaza. While activity in the northern arena has become somewhat routine -- six attacks attributed to Israel this past year -- yesterday it became clear the southern one is waking up after a comparatively long period of quiet, ever since the air force reportedly destroyed weapons caches near the Khartoum International Airport.

Following that attack, which was attributed to Israel, and a series of other land and sea strikes, Iran shut down the southern weapons transfer route until it could assess the situation. The result: increased attempts to fool and mislead potential trackers. So Iran knew that Israel was keeping tabs on every weapons shipment that arrived from the west from Tehran to Damascus, and decided to do the opposite -- ship them east, from Damascus to Tehran, thinking that in that way they could scuttle under the radar.
This latest rocket shipment set off warning bells in Israel. It was clear that something was happening, but a few more weeks of intensive intelligence work were needed to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. In the end, when Israel's Flotilla 13 naval commandos boarded the ship, they knew exactly what to do. So shortly after the ship was commandeered, the Israeli Navy commander was able to inform IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz that the mission had been successful.
Earlier, at 5:30 a.m., naval commandos woke up the ship's drowsy watch commander. He rushed to wake the captain, who was sleeping in his cabin. When the captain arrived on deck, he saw missile ships flanking his vessel. At both edges of the deck were boats carrying the naval commandos, and a helicopter was hovering overhead. This was enough and he was quick to cooperate. A quick interrogation of the crew showed that they had no idea what they were really carrying in the cargo hold, and they are expected to be released once their interrogation is completed in Israel.
Looking back, the takeover was the easy part of the operation. The difficulty was mainly in gathering intelligence, and carrying out the mission so far from Israel. It took the Israeli Navy a few days to sail to the destination, and the missile ships were forced to maneuver to avoid identification and contact with foreign ships. All of this under close air cover, involving complicated command, logistics, and communication.
The clear goal was to commandeer the ship before it anchored in Sudan. There was a double rationale for this: the concern that from the moment the rockets were unloaded, they would disappear and make it to Gaza, and the desire to physically grab them as living, damning evidence of the terror activity Iran is directing.
Operation Full Disclosure achieved both objectives with total success. Israel will use some of the evidence to smear Iran in the world, and as far as Gaza goes, a significant armament was foiled. The operation seized 30 rockets with a range of 90 kilometers (60 miles) that were meant to allow terror groups, in the next go-around, to fire rockets carrying 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of explosives at Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the nuclear facility in Dimona.
As of yesterday, this threat was neutralized (partially, because in Gaza they are fervently working to build their own rockets with similar range). Still, we know from the past that Iran will once again take time to learn its lesson and will then try to open new smuggling routes to the north and south of Israel. And if the world refuses to get worked up over the smoking gun that was captured yesterday, Israel can be expected to face that challenge alone in the future, as well.
But until that happens, Israel can enjoy the fruits of the operation. Months of work by hundreds of people, an immense investment of resources, complicated decision-making, and smooth execution put the IDF back, if only for a moment, where it belongs.

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