The media stunt was to advertise what Israel claimed was a shipment of missiles en route from Iran to the Gaza Strip. At the time, many people pointed out that it was hard to understand how large missiles could be smuggled into Gaza, given Israel’s siege by land sea and air, supported by Egypt.
Iran and the Palestinian political and military organization Hamas claimed Israel was lying.
While Oren didn’t question the veracity of Israel’s claim, he did point out its propaganda value.
First, for the prime minister: the media event took place five days after the ship had been supposedly captured, but just after Netanyahu returned from a trip to the United States. Second, as form of pressure on Iran.
The claims also give Israel a pretext for its continued collective punishment of Gaza.
Oren did point out the absurdity of Israel’s indignation that Iran had accused it of lying, given that Israel itself habitually lies: “Israel’s condemnation of Iran as a liar is ridiculous. From David Ben-Gurion’s time to the present, Israel has lied when it believed it had to do so to avoid punishment.”
While there were already plenty of reasons to cast doubt on Israel’s story, Dan Williams of Reuters has a report today headlined: “Doubts surface on Gaza destination of rockets seized by Israel.”
The reports quotes a “US official” saying of the rockets: “You look at those things and it’s obvious they couldn’t have been slipped into Gaza.”
Some US intelligence analysts and Middle East security officials believe that a rocket shipment seized by the Israeli navy in the Red Sea this month was destined for the Egyptian Sinai and not for the Gaza Strip, as Israel says.
A US official and two non-Israeli regional sources said Israel appeared to be insisting on the Gaza destination in order to spare the military-backed interim Egyptian administration embarrassment as it struggles to impose order in the Sinai.
Israel has little compunction about drawing scrutiny to the rocket arsenals of Gaza’s governing Hamas Islamists and other armed Palestinian factions, with whom it has regularly clashed.
“Were the Israelis to say the rockets were going to Sinai, then they would also have had to say who in Sinai was going to receive the rockets,” one source told Reuters, adding that such a statement would draw attention to the insurgents resisting Egypt’s security sweeps in northern Sinai.
Israel says the Syrian-made M302 rockets and other munitions were hidden aboard the Panamanian-flagged Klos C while it docked in Iran. The ship was intercepted on March 5, en route to Sudan – where, Israel says, the arms would have been offloaded and trucked to Gaza through Egypt, a standard trafficking route.
An Israeli military officer who took part in planning the naval interdiction told Reuters that, in the month before it happened, “not once did I hear anyone mention anything other than Gaza as the end-point for these weapons.”
A US official said Washington had confirmed the Syrian and Iranian provenance of the rockets and believed they were to have been used against Israel. But half of US intelligence analysts thought Sinai, not Gaza, was the destination, the official said.
“You look at those things and it’s obvious they couldn’t have been slipped into Gaza,” the official said, adding that the M302s were not designed to be disassembled for easier smuggling.
The Reuters report says that US analysts believe that mortars aboard the ship may have been bound for Gaza, while other weapons, including large amounts of ammunition, were likely bound for destinations in Africa.
The United States supplies billions of dollars worth of weaponry to Israel each year, which Israel uses to occupy and colonize Palestinians.
However, the United States does not support Palestinians’ right to self-defense and resistance against Israeli occupation and hence views all weapons’ transfers to Palestinian armed groups, regardless of how the weapons are used, as support for “terrorism.”