The beaches of Ashkelon and Ashdown, twin Israeli ports up to 25 km north of Gaza, were evacuated Monday, Feb. 1 for fear that two large containers packed with explosives which drifted ashore were floating bombs with more on the way. One was detected by an Israeli fisherman who alerted the police.
debkafile's military sources say the containers were designed to float on the waves and their contents to be detonated by remote control. Each contained tens of kilos of bomb materials.
Senior intelligence and naval officers familiar with the arena are investigating the incident to discover if the explosives were destined for a fresh round of sophisticated attacks on Israeli targets. If so, Palestinian fishermen would be able to judge the force and direction of Mediterranean currents for carrying them to strategic targets, such as the Israel offshore oil rig opposite Ashkelon, the power station on its shore, the oil depot, Israel's second largest port at Ashdod and the Israeli Navy facility based there. Israel naval vessels maintaining the sea blockade on Gaza could be another target.
Other sources recall that Iran has been using the floating barrels dropped by merchant vessels at prearranged locations to deliver explosives to their Palestinian surrogates in Gaza, where they are picked up by waiting fishermen familiar with the sea currents. Two of these containers may have washed up on Ashkelon and Ashdod beaches as a result of a misjudgment.
If that is the case, then the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's claim of responsibility Monday night must have been intended as a smokescreen for Iran's secret sea route for topping up Gazan Palestinians' stocks of explosives. The fresh supplies may tie in with the order Hamas' military commander Muhammad Jafry gave his men last week to resume terrorist attacks against Israel.