'Advanced NATO' sub chased from Israeli waters

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

TEL AVIV A submarine from a NATO navy was detected entering Israeli territorial waters last week on a reconnaissance mission.

Military sources said the submarine came from what appeared to be a NATO navy that patrols the eastern Mediterranean. The sources said the submarine entered three miles into Israeli territorial waters off the coast of Nahariya before it was detected. The submarine then left Israeli waters, pursued by Israeli ships and helicopters.

"The speed and signature of the submarine were that of an advanced NATO navy vessel," an Israeli military source said. "We are very disturbed by this because this is not the first time that this has happened."

The submarine entered Israeli territorial waters overnight Nov. 10, Middle East Newsline reported. Military sources said the submarine, with its periscope perched above the water, was heading for Haifa, the headquarters of the Israel Navy and the location of refineries and other vital infrastructure.

"It could very well be that this submarine was American or French, Russian or Italian, who are regular visitors in the Mediterranean sea," Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Yuval Steinitz said. "If we had attacked the submarine, dozens of American or French sailors would have died unnecessarily. We chose not to destroy the submarine, but rather to chase it away."

The sources said the submarine sought to conduct reconnaissance of Israel's vital facilities. They said the submarine probably also intended to intercept electronic signals from the navy and test the response of Israel's military to an intrusion.

Within minutes, the Israel Navy detected the foreign submarine and began tracking the vessel, the sources said. After several hours, the submarine, presumably determining that it had come under Israeli surveillance, submerged and headed west away from the Israeli coast.

At that point, the navy sent fast patrol craft, missile boats and helicopters to intercept the vessel. The search was said to have lasted several hours and the submarine was not found. Later, military sources maintained that the intruding submarine failed to complete its mission.

Several military sources, acknowledging that they did not have sufficient evidence, suggested that the intruding vessel was a U.S. nuclear-powered submarine. They ruled out the possibility that the submarine belonged to Iran or an Arab or Soviet-bloc navy.

The sources said this was not the first time a foreign submarine had entered Israeli territorial waters on an espionage operation. They appeared to rule out the prospect that the submarine had wandered into Israeli territorial waters by accident.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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