Iran warships to transit Suez Canal: Israel

Feb. 15: Israel warned on Wednesday that two Iranian warships were poised to pass through the Suez Canal en route to Syria, something it called a provocation that had not happened in years.

The first word came from foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman in an address to a group of American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. The speech, which hinted at a possible response, was closed to reporters, but Mr Lieberman’s office issued a statement afterward with a partial text of what he said.

“Tonight, two Iranian warships are meant to pass through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea and reach Syria, something that has not happened in many years,” Mr Lieberman said.

He noted that the move came on top of another provocation, an October visit to southern Lebanon by the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr Ahmadinejad was warmly welcomed there by Hezbollah, the militant Shia group that is one of Israel’s main enemies.

“Unfortunately, the international community is not showing readiness to deal with the recurring Iranian provocations,” Mr Lieberman said. “The international community must understand that Israel cannot ignore these provocations forever.” Later, defence minister Ehud Barak, in a somewhat lower-key statement, added: “Israel is closely monitoring the movement of the Iranian ships and has updated friendly states on the issue. Israel will continue to monitor the movement of the ships.”

A member of the Suez board said that warships could pass through the canal only on the approval of the Egyptian defence and foreign affairs ministries, and that the canal authority had received no notice of such expected movement.

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