A stash of Iranian weapons seized by Nigerian authorities last week caused Israeli defense analysts to fear that Teheran has opened new routes across Africa to arm Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The weapons were discovered in 13 crates on a ship that departed from Iran and docked in the Lagos Port. A false cargo declaration stated the contents included "packages of glass wool and pallets of stone." Instead, agents found rocket launchers, grenades and other explosives. The largest weapons found were 107mm Katyusha-style rockets, which Iran is known to manufacture and which is part of Hizballah's and Hamas' arsenals.
Since the Israel-Lebanon War in 2006, Iran has re-equipped Hezbollah in Lebanon, which is estimated to have 40,000 missiles capable of launching strikes into Israel. Iran is also believed to have transferred longer-range missiles to Hamas in Gaza. During Hamas' war with Israel during December 2008 – January 2009, Hamas launched rockets reaching Israeli cities including Beer Sheva and Ashdod. In January, 2009, Israel said that Hamas acquired dozens of Iranian made Fajr-3 missiles with an even longer range.
Over the past two years, Israel and western intelligence agencies have intercepted large shipments of weapons sent by Iran to arm Israel's enemies. In 2009, Israeli naval commandos stormed a ship carrying hundreds of tons of weapons from Iran destined for Syria and Lebanon. In January, 2009, Israel bombed a convoy of trucks traveling through the Sudanese desert carry weapons destined for Gaza.
The discovery of the Iranian weapons in Nigeria indicates that Iran could be developing a global network for moving weapons and people.
Israeli military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it appeared Iran aimed to smuggle the weapons into the Gaza Strip. Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip when Hamas seized control over the region in 2007.
The Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Alhaji Dikko Abdullahi, said "I have seen some of the items in the containers. I can assure you, whoever brought them in was preparing for war. Nobody moves a thing like this through an approved seaport! I mean, it shows the level of their mentality."