One day after IDF Navy commandos stopped a ship carrying missiles from Iran to Hamas, IDF intelligence officials estimate that the seizure of the ship before it reached its target has led to fury in the Iranian National Guard, headed by the Al Quds force, and to an investigation into what went wrong.
The Israeli defense establishment believes that Iranian activity along the so-called “southern route” will be halted for the next few months, but that it is quite possible that Iran will continue to make every effort to transport weapons to terror groups through other routes.
A senior IDF officer said that there is tension between Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, and the Quds Force commander, Kassem Sulimani. The tension stems from Rouhani's strenuous objections to actions of this type, and the fact that he places internal issues at the top of his agenda. The officer said that Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, they may harm efforts to reach an agreement with the West on Iran's nuclear program.
Asked about US involvement in the commando attack, the officer said that the US was informed of the relevant details ahead of the raid, but did not take an active part in collecting information that led up to it.
A senior naval officer said that “all of the possible ways” to stop the weapons smuggling to Gaza were considered before a decision was made to use the naval option.
"The main difficulty was locating the ship at sea at a distance of thousands of miles,” he explained. “It was like finding a needle in a haystack. We also took into account the danger of being discovered and the great distance from Israel's shores.”
The officer added that the IDF took into account “extreme scenarios,” including “a ship with explosives, exploding terrorists, including booby-traps on board, and for that reason, we were accompanied by experts in bomb disposal and a great variety of combat fighters and tools of various kinds, including two missile ships, a helicopter, and fast and efficient ships.”
As for the timing and location of the operation, the officer said that various factors were taken into account, including the height of the waves, “We were concerned that the ship's crew would think that we were pirates, and that is why we identified ourselves from the outset as the IDF, and when the captain looked right and left, he saw two Navy missile ships, including additional vessels – and it was a show of force he could not resist, and therefore the boarding of the ship was quiet.”
The officer said that the Turkish captain and the rest of the crew did not know that there were weapons on board.