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“The Yakhont is a significant weapon and the navy knows how to provide a response for all different missile threats on every possible front,” said Rothberg.
As part of this protective front, the Israeli military is considering placing anti-missile systems on gas rigs due to be built in Israel’s EEZ in the coming years. The navy has already informed the gas exploration companies that they must install radar systems on their platforms. These measures are meant to counter attacks on the platforms from Hezbollah-fired anti-ship missiles as well as by “explosives-laden vessels.” The USS Cole was attacked by one such deadly suicide craft in 2000 that saw 17 American sailors killed, 39 wounded and “a 40-by-40-foot hole” blown in the ship’s side.
Besides attacks on the gas rigs, Israel fears that Hezbollah’s and al-Jihad’s possession of sophisticated anti-ship missiles may cause a serious problem with ship traffic to the Jewish state if used against merchant vessels. Such an attempt to blockade the Israeli coast would cause a serious disruption to the Israeli economy and military effort. Approximately 99 percent of Israeli imports, the Jerusalem Post reports, arrive by ship, “including ammunition and military hardware.”
“Navy assessments are that Hezbollah will try to attack cargo ships within a 30-kilometer radius of Israel in an effort to get commercial vessels to refuse to sail there during a war,” the Post states.
Also among the measures Israel believes its Islamist enemies may employ to blockade the Israeli coast are naval mines. Among the weapons reportedly smuggled into Gaza from Libyan warehouses after the downfall of Gaddafi, the possibility of naval mines being among them has generally been overlooked. Gaddafi’s navy is known to have possessed a store of such mines, which it used in the recent civil conflict to blockade the rebel port of Misrata. And Israel believes it is a very real possibility that some mines will eventually wind up in Gaza, if they are not there already. Even Egypt is worried about the Gaza terrorists’ use of naval mines since, if not anchored down, they could drift into Egyptian waters.
And it is not only attacks by irregular terrorist forces that justify the proposed purchase of the four new Israeli warships. Regular Turkish warships and aircraft menacingly shadowed, but did not interfere with, the transfer of an American gas rig from Israeli to Greek Cypriot waters last year. Turkey is angry that Greek Cyprus, Israel’s ally, is exploring for gas without including Turkish northern Cyprus. Turkey has also threatened to have its warships escort the next aid flotilla to Gaza, a threat it has yet to fulfill. And with a Muslim Brotherhood government becoming a reality in Egypt, the Israeli navy will also have to keep a closer eye on that country’s navy. The Egyptian navy is currently having two modern submarines built in Germany where Israel has purchased similar vessels.
“The navy will play a critical role on any front, or war,” said Rothberg.
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