The Klos-C and its Israeli Navy escort entered the port of Eilat Saturday afternoon after a voyage of three-and-a-half days following Israel’s interception of the ship off the coast of Sudan early Wednesday.
The Klos-C, which was captured with what the IDF says is a cargo of Iranian arms in its hold, is being unloaded at the civilian port over the course of Saturday and Sunday. Its crew was to disembark and be held for questioning. IDF sappers were standing by on shore to search the ship for booby traps and handle explosives in the Klos-C’s hold.
Masked soldiers of the crack Shayetet 13 naval commando unit were visible standing on the decks of the Klos-C as it docked.
The arms found aboard the ship will be shown to the media at a press conference scheduled for Monday.
The cargo ship entered port just after 4:30 p.m. Saturday with the INS Hanit cruising along its port side. The INS Hetz sailed into port shortly thereafter. Civilian craft welcomed the ships to Israeli waters with a chorus of horn-blowing, Israel Radio reported.
The Klos-C is expected to be released with her Turkish captain and her crew in the coming days after the weapons in its hold are offloaded.
Israeli commandos boarded the Panamanian-flagged ship early on Wednesday in the Red Sea, and found it to be carrying an Iranian arms shipment headed for the Gaza Strip, Israel’s military said. The consignment had been tracked by Israeli intelligence for months, officials said.
The army said Wednesday that soldiers carried out a preliminary inspection of the ship and found several dozen advanced Syrian M-302 missiles, with a range of up to 200 kilometers (125 miles) and a payload of up to 170 kilograms (375 pounds). The missiles were hidden in shipping containers also carrying sacks of concrete with Iranian markings.
Israel and the US coordinated intelligence and military activities leading up to Israel’s seizure of the Klos-C off the coast of Port Sudan, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and the State Department said Wednesday.
After consultations between American and Israeli officials, it was decided that Israel would act against the vessel, Shapiro told Israel Radio, even though the Pentagon had already drafted plans to intercept the ship.
Israel’s capture of the Klos-C followed heavy intelligence work, officials said, with the missile shipment tracked for months from Damascus to Iran and from there to Iraq before it was intercepted en route to Gaza.