Babylon & Beyond

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EGYPT: Iranian ships enter Suez Canal

February 22, 2011 |  7:10 am

Warships Two Iranian naval ships entered Egypt's Suez Canal on Tuesday heading for Syria, a canal official told Reuters, a move that Israeli officials have condemned as a provocation.

"They entered the canal at 5:45 a.m.," the official said. No other details were immediately available.

The Suez Canal cuts through Egypt and allows shipping to pass from the Middle East to Europe and vice versa without going around the southern tip of Africa.

The canal's northern mouth, Port Said, is about 60 miles from Israel, but the ships' route would take them into the Mediterranean along the Israeli coast and Gaza. The vessels, the first Iranian navy ships to enter the canal since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, are a frigate and a supply ship.

Separately, Israel announced Tuesday that its Arrow II missile shield had aced its latest live trial, shooting down a target missile off a U.S. military base on the California coast, Reuters reported.

Israeli defense official Arieh Herzog said the test marked Arrow's upgrade "to contend with new and additional threats" in the Middle East.

"Arrow can intercept all of the weapons arrayed against it in the region, including those that are liable to come from Iran," Herzog told reporters.

--  Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: An Iranian warship passes through the Suez Canal on Tuesday near Ismailia after Egyptian authorities allowed two Iranian ships to transit the canal, bound for the Mediterranean Sea. Credit: EPA