Israel won't base submarines in Red Sea
Published: Jul 06, 2009 08:50 AM Updated: May 25, 2011 12:50 PM

Israel has no plans to station submarines in Eilat, a defense official said yesterday, downplaying speculation the Red Sea port could become a forward base for secret naval operations against Iran.

An Israeli Dolphin-class submarine took part in a drill off Eilat last week, after sailing from the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal – the first such voyage for the secretive craft and a sign of Israel’s growing strategic reach, defense sources said.

Witnesses said the vessel docked briefly at Eilat’s naval base before departing. But an Israeli defense official said there would be no permanent deployment there of the German-made submarines.

The absence of an Eilat submarine base means a Gulf-bound Dolphin has to use the shallow Suez Canal or sail around Africa, taking weeks and limiting Israel’s ability to signal a readiness to retaliate should it ever come under Iranian nuclear attack.

The Dolphins are widely assumed to carry nuclear missiles, though Israel refuses to discuss this. Their conventional weapons could be used should Israel attack Iran’s atomic sites, which Tehran insists are for peaceful purposes only.

Eilat is a 10-km strip of coast between Egypt and Jordan, the two Arab states that have peace treaties with Israel.

The lack of space, and fears that the narrow Red Sea could be blockaded at the Straits of Tiran should there be a regional war, led Israel to rule out a full-time Dolphin presence.

At the Dolphins’ main base, the Mediterranean port of Haifa, work is underway on covered docks that would allow greater concealment for the submarines, the source said.


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