TEL AVIV (Jun. 11)
The commander of Israel’s navy said tonight that it was capable of operations far from Israel’s shores and could handle a situation such as arose during the Yom Kippur War when Egypt blockaded the Straits of Bab el Mandeb that connect the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean. Addressing military correspondents on the eve of Navy Day which Israel will celebrate tomorrow. Admiral Benjamin Telem would not say how the navy would respond in the event the straits were again closed to Israeli shipping but observed that “We now have better, much better capabilities to do so.”
Admiral Telem also revealed that a Soviet spy ship was stationed in international waters off Israel, monitoring all Israeli cables, radio-telephone calls and broadcasts.
He officially disclosed that the navy is now equipped with an improved version of its “Gabriel” surface-to-surface missile, the “Gabriel II” which has double the 20-mile range of the original “Gabriel” missile. He disclosed that the navy also has hovercraft, amphibious vessels that ride on cushions of air just over the sea surface. He said they are employed in rescues operations, the transfer of wounded and carrying cargoes. He said the Israeli hovercraft have a range of 80 kilometers.
Admiral Telem confirmed that the Egyptian navy has been utilizing the Suez Canal, well before its official reopening June 5, to re-enforce its Red Sea fleet with modern, sophisticated naval units. He said Egyptian naval craft have been passing through the canal for the past 6-8 months. According to the Admiral. Israel’s navy and all navies in this region will rely mainly on small craft in the future. He described these as small coastal vessels and swift missile boats. He said the idea is to have boats with small crews and heavy fire power.