Two Israeli warships reportedly sailed through the Suez Canal on Tuesday, ten days after a submarine believed to be nuclear-armed made the crossing.
The deployment into the Red Sea, confirmed by Israeli officials to The Times of London, came ahead of long-range exercises by the Israeli air force with the U.S. later this month and the test of a missile defense shield at a U.S. missile range in the Pacific.
Israel has strengthened ties with Arab nations who also fear a nuclear-armed Iran. In particular, relations with Egypt have grown increasingly strong this year over the “shared mutual distrust of Iran”, according to one Israeli diplomat.
"This is preparation that should be taken seriously. Israel is investing time in preparing itself for the complexity of an attack on Iran. These maneuvers are a message to Iran that Israel will follow up on its threats," the Times of London quoted an Israeli defense official as saying.
If Israel were to launch an attack on Iran, Israeli naval vessels would likely pass through the Suez Canal, the official said.
It is believed that Israel’s missile-equipped submarines, and its fleet of advanced aircraft, could be used to strike in excess of a dozen nuclear-related targets more than 800 miles from Israel.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told The Times that his government explicitly allowed passage of Israeli vessels, and an Israeli admiral said the drills were "run regularly with the full co-operation of the Egyptians."
Two Israeli Saar class missile boats and a Dolphin class submarine have passed through Suez. Israel has six Dolphin-class submarines, three of which may carry nuclear missiles.