ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 148

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Military ends search for Navy SEALs lost in maritime raid on ship with Iranian arms

Sailors considered deceased after 10-day rescue search following mission targeting unflagged vessel carrying illicit Iranian-made weapons to Houthis in Yemen

This undated photograph released by the US military's Central Command shows what it is described as the vessel that carried Iranian-made missile components bound for Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the Arabian Sea. (US Central Command via AP)
This undated photograph released by the US military's Central Command shows what it is described as the vessel that carried Iranian-made missile components bound for Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the Arabian Sea. (US Central Command via AP)

WASHINGTON — The 10-day search to rescue two Navy SEALs lost in the Arabian Sea during a mission to board a ship and confiscate Iranian-made weapons has been ended and the sailors are now considered deceased, the US military said Sunday.

In a statement, US Central Command said the search has now been changed to a recovery effort. The names of the SEALs have not been released as family notifications continue.

Ships and aircraft from the US, Japan and Spain continuously searched more than 21,000 square miles, the military said, with assistance from the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center, the US Coast Guard Atlantic Area Command, University of San Diego – Scripts Institute of Oceanography and the Office of Naval Research.

“We mourn the loss of our two Naval Special Warfare warriors, and we will forever honor their sacrifice and example,” said Gen. Erik Kurilla, head of US Central Command. “Our prayers are with the SEALs’ families, friends, the US Navy and the entire Special Operations community during this time.”

According to officials, the January 11 raid targeted an unflagged ship carrying illicit Iranian-made weapons to the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Officials have said that as the team was boarding the ship, one of the SEALs went under in the heavy seas, and a teammate went in to try and save him.

The commandos had launched from the USS Lewis B. Puller, a mobile sea base, and they were backed by drones and helicopters. They loaded onto small special operations combat craft driven by naval special warfare crew to get to the boat.

In the raid, they seized an array of Iranian-made weaponry, including cruise and ballistic missile components such as propulsion and guidance devices and warheads, as well as air defense parts, Central Command said.

It marked the latest seizure by the US Navy and its allies of weapon shipments bound for the rebels, who have launched a series of attacks now threatening global trade in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip following the terror group’s October 7 shock onslaught on southern Israel, in which 1,200 were killed, and 253 were taken hostage.

The seized missile components included types likely used in those attacks.

The US Navy ultimately sunk the ship carrying the weapons after deeming it unsafe, Central Command said. The ship’s 14 crew were detained.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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