World must react ‘firmly’ to Iran navy move: Israel

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JERUSALEM – Israel on Tuesday urged world powers to respond “firmly” after two Iran warships began sailing through the Suez Canal en route to the Mediterranean, in what the Jewish state says is a provocation. The two ships entered the canal shortly after dawn and were expected to emerge into the southeastern Mediterranean in the early evening, some 12-14 hours later, a canal official said.
“We are talking about an unprecedented Iranian military presence in the Mediterranean, and that is a provocation to which the international community must react firmly,” foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP. The patrol frigate Alvand and support ship Kharg are the first Iranian warships to pass through the canal since the 1979 Islamic revolution, and are reportedly bound for Syria, on a journey which will take them past Israel’s territorial waters.
Quoting unnamed senior officials, public radio said Israel knew where the ships were and was holding situational assessments with US officials. The radio also said Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had discussed the matter with US Ambassador to Israel, James Cunningham. On Sunday, Netanyahu said Israel viewed the incident, which he described as an Iranian power play,
“with gravity.”
“Iran is trying to profit (from the regional instability) by extending its influence by dispatching two warships to cross the Suez Canal,” he said. The Kharg has a crew of 250 and can carry up to three helicopters. The Alvand is armed with torpedos and anti-ship missiles.
The enmity between Iran and Israel has worsened under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has frequently predicted that the Jewish state will be wiped off the map.