Two Israeli warships reportedly passed through the Suez Canal Tuesday in what is seen as an unusual show of cooperation between Egypt and the Jewish State, according to Arab news media.
The report has not been officially confirmed by the IDF. However, in what appeared to be confirmation by Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Ghet told journalists that the crossings were legitimate in accordance with an agreement between the countries.
The Hanit and the Eilat, both Sa’ar-5 class Navy torpedo boats, traveled from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, allegedly to beef up Israel’s military presence there.
The Eilat is the second ship of that name; the first was a destroyer sunk by Egypt shortly after the 1967 Six Day War. Forty-seven Israeli sailors died in the attack.
The Hanit had already made the trip through the Suez, according to the AFP news agency, which reported the vessel had crossed through the Canal in each direction in June.
Several weeks ago, an Israeli Dolphin-class submarine also traveled through the Suez Canal from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and back, escorted by Egyptian navy vessels. It was the first such drill for the German-made secret vessel, defense sources confirmed to the Reuters news agency, despite a later denial by an Egyptian security officer who said the voyage had never taken place. IDF Army Radio quoted the officer as saying, “Egypt does not allow Israeli warships to enter our territory.”
Usually Israeli ships and submarines travel around the Horn of Africa in order to reach the Red Sea, where an Iranian ship loaded with weapons was sunk a few months ago. More than 100 arms smugglers on board the vessel, which was headed for Gaza, were killed in the attack reportedly carried out by Israel.
The recent voyage of the Dolphin was intended by both Israel and Egypt as a message to Iran, which has continued it nuclear development activities in the face of a ban by the United Nations Security Council.
Intelligence reports indicate that Iran is intent upon building a nuclear weapon, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has in the past year repeatedly threatened to attack the State of Israel. Any nuclear attack on the Jewish State would affect neighboring nations as well.
Until now, Israeli naval vessels have previously avoided the Suez Canal, and some media pundits have speculated that military intelligence has tried to avoid Egyptian detection of alleged nuclear warheads aboard the ships.