The arms shipment that was seized by Israeli forces aboard the ship Klos-C in the Red Sea in March did indeed originate from Iran, as Israel claimed — but was bound for Sudan, a UN panel of experts said.
The panel’s 14-page report, which was leaked by Reuters on Friday, does not confirm that the shipment of rockets, M-302 missiles and other weapons on board the Panamanian-flagged vessel was intended for terror groups in Gaza, as Israel alleged after intercepting it.
After seizing the shipment, Israel claimed that the weapons were to have been unloaded at Port Sudan, then taken overland to Gaza to be added to the stockpiles of Palestinian terrorists there. However, this week’s report said that Sudan was meant to have been the weapons’ final destination.
Israeli Naval commandos intercepted 40 M-302 missiles,181 122-mm mortars, and 400,000 7.62 caliber bullet in the arms cache on the ship while it was sailing off the coasts of Eritrea and Sudan.
Israel hailed the discovery of the shipment as exposing Iranian efforts to support global terrorism, and repeatedly stressed that the arms cache was meant for Gaza.
In late March, after a US official and two Middle East analysts suggested the weapons had been bound for the Sinai, not Gaza, a government official told The Times of Israel that Israel was “sure” they were intended for terrorist groups in the Strip.
However, though the UN panel concluded that though the shipment had originated from Iran, it made no mention of Gaza as a possible destination.
The experts did not speculate on why Iran had sent the weapons to Sudan. They said only that by doing so, Tehran had violated the UN’s arms embargo on it.
Iran denied any involvement, and Sudan said it had no connection with the vessel which it said was in international waters.
Iran is currently negotiating with world powers to secure a deal that will lift some international restrictions on it, including the arms embargo, in exchange for curbing its nuclear program. The next round of talks in Vienna is set to take place in just a few days.
“The Panel concludes that the shipment of arms and related materiel found aboard the Klos-C is a violation of Iran’s obligations under paragraph 5 of resolution 1747,” the experts wrote in the report.
They added, “The Panel finds that the manner of concealment in this case is consistent with several other cases reported to the (Security Council’s Iran Sanctions) Committee and investigated by the Panel.”
The report also addressed Israeli claims that some of the weapons on board the Klos-C were manufactured in Syria.
“According to Israeli officials, the rockets were produced in Syria by the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC),” the experts said. “No markings were identified on the rockets during the Panel’s inspection that would have allowed confirmation of the Syrian origin of the rockets.”
“One expert notes that the Syrian origin of the rockets cannot be independently established and neither can the movement of the rockets from Syria to Iran,” they added.
In May, a study revealed that Iran has played a key role in supporting war-torn Sudan’s weapons production, while Tehran has also been Khartoum’s second-biggest supplier of arms.
Some of those imported arms, along with others from China, have reached rebel groups in Sudan as well as South Sudan, said the Small Arms Survey report based on more than two years of investigation.
It said that there is “emerging evidence that Iran has played a significant role in supporting Sudan’s weapons manufacturing sector.”
Marissa Newman and AFP contributed to this report.