Israeli satellites have detected a cargo vessel docked at an Iranian port being loaded with rockets and other weaponry, which analysts believe may be headed toward Gaza, the British Sunday Times reported on Sunday.
The weapons were being prepared for loading at the port of Bandar Abbas last week, according to the report, as Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire following eight days of fighting in Gaza during which some 1,500 rockets, many of them Iranian-made, were fired into Israel.
“Regardless of the cease-fire agreement, we will attack and destroy any shipment of arms to Gaza once we have spotted it,” said an Israeli defense source quoted by The Sunday Times.
Israeli intelligence sources believe the cargo will pass through the Red Sea, Sudan and Egypt, traveling on a well-known route used by Iran to smuggle arms into Gaza, the report said.
Sources say the shipment may include Fajr-5 rockets, similar to those launched by Hamas into Israel in the latest round of fighting, as well as Shahab-3 ballistic missiles, which could be stationed in Sudan to pose a threat to Israel, according to the report.
“With a lot of effort, Iran has skillfully built a strategic arm pointing at Israel from the south,” the Israeli source was quoted as saying.
“We believe that Iranian warships anchored in Eritrea will accompany the weapons ship as soon as it enters the Red Sea,” another Israeli source told the Times.
On Saturday, senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar showed how fragile the cease-fire with Israel remained, with defiant remarks to reporters saying the Islamists would go on smuggling weapons "by all possible means," including via Iran.
"We have no choice but to continue to bring in weapons by all possible means," Zahar said, adding that he expected Tehran would "increase its military and financial support to Hamas."
"We have a right to take money and weapons from Iran. They [Iran] give to us for the sake of God, no conditions attached, and I am a witness to that," Zahar told reporters.
In a rare phone call to Hamas' Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised what he called Palestinian "resistance and perseverance" against Israel, which he said must now "bow" to Palestinian rights, IRNA news agency reported.
Zahar said that after Hamas' rain of rocket fire that reached as far as Tel Aviv and paralyzed swathes of southern Israel, "the Jews will think twice before" attacking Iran.
Some analysts say otherwise, however, pointing at how the Israeli military inflicted serious blows to Hamas' weapons arsenal, showing the world it has cutting-edge technology, particularly when it comes to missile defense.