Iran’s blocked Gaza aid ship becomes control-and-command HQ for Hamas

debkafile‘s military and intelligence sources report that the aid ship Iran Shahed, which the Israel embargo of the Gaza Strip forced to stay 42 km from the coast, took delivery Monday, Jan. 26 of sophisticated communications equipment from Cyprus for maintaining contact with Hamas leaders who remain in hiding. It came with a group of maintenance engineers.
The Iran Shahed set out from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas Dec. 29, the second day of the Gaza conflict, as a Red Crescent aid ship loaded with humanitarian and medical supplies for the Palestinian population.
On Jan. 13, when it reached a point 30 km from the shores of Gaza, the aid ship was surrounded by Israeli missile ships and ordered to leave the 40km zone blockaded by Israel at the outset of its Gaza operation. This was Day 18. When the captain failed to respond, a missile boat escorted it none too gently into international water.
Tehran has meanwhile airlifted to its embassy in Nicosia a group of military men in civvies, including intelligence and Revolutionary Guards officers, who are setting up a military ground staff base to support the ship’s operations for Hamas. They have also hired Cypriot craft to shuttle between Cyprus and the “aid ship.”
Western naval intelligence sources say the vessel has been converted into a floating logistical headquarters for the Hamas leadership, with Hamas frogmen using fishing boats to keep them connected. They believe the converted ship is the first link in a protective belt the Iranians are throwing around the Hamas leadership in Gaza.
Last week, Tehran asked Cairo for permission to fly a group of 20 journalists and photographers to Cairo on their way to the Gaza Strip to report on the situation there. Our sources report that five members of the group were bone fides press people, the rest Iranian undercover agents for attachment to Hamas’ Gaza command. Cairo withheld permission.

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