JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two Iranian warships reportedly entered the Suez Canal, the first to pass through since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The ships entered the canal for the 10- to 12-hour crossing on Tuesday morning after receiving permission from Egypt’s Defense Ministry, the Egyptian state-run Middle East News Agency reported.
The Iranian naval ships, a frigate and a supply ship, are headed to Syria for what has been described as training.
Israel takes a "grave view" of Iran’s plan to send two navy warships through the Suez Canal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday.
"I think that today, we can see what an unstable region we live in, a region in which Iran tries to exploit the situation that has been created in order to expand its influence by passing warships through the Suez Canal," Netanyahu told his Cabinet in public remarks on Sunday. "Israel views this Iranian move with utmost gravity and this step, like other steps and developments, underscores what I have reiterated in recent years — Israel’s security needs will grow and the defense budget must grow accordingly."
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had announced Feb. 16 that the ships were en route to Syria via the Suez Canal. His statement called the move a recurring Iranian "provocation" and suggested that Israel would not ignore Iran’s actions.
"The international community must understand that Israel cannot forever ignore these provocations," he said.
According to international rules governing navigation through the Suez Canal, no vessel can be denied passage unless it is at war with Egypt. Prior approval must come from the Ministry of Defense, and ships must give at least 24 hours notice before crossing.