A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More Israeli Suez Canal Transits

Two more Israeli warships have transited the Suez Canal. Warship transits, while guaranteed under the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, are rare, given the fact that Israel is concerned about security. As anyone who has seen the canal knows, it is narrow, and warships passing are easily viewed by civilians and others along its banks.

While newsworthy and perhaps a warning shot to Iran, these transits, of two Saar 5 corvettes (one of which, the Hanit, was famously damaged by a Hizbullah anti-ship missile in 2006, and the other of which, the Eilat, carries the name of a destroyer sunk by Egypt in 1967), is not as newsworthy as the earlier transit of one of Israel's Dolphin class subs earlier in the month. As I noted then, that was noteworthy because it was the first time Israel is known to have sent one of its Dolphins through the canal, and the usual assumption has been because a transit (which must be done surfaced) would reveal too much about the sub's armament, widely believed to include nuclear-capable ship-to-shore missiles.

UPDATE: Hizbullah's al-Manar website has run a wire service story on this, but illustrated it with a photo of an aircraft carrier passing through the Canal. I'm sorry to say this is the kind of old-guard sensationalist reporting that gave the Arab press a bad name a generation or more ago. The Israeli vessels were two corvettes, sometimes classed as frigates but rather lighter, and Israel of course has no aircraft carriers.

(Added note: trying to read the number in the photo on the bow of the carrier, I think it's 68, and if it's CVN-68 it's the USS Nimitz.)

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