Yerushalayim (Yoni Ariel/TPS) – The Israeli Navy is increasingly involved in what a senior naval officer has called “21stcentury gunboat diplomacy.” as naval forces from several countries roam the eastern Mediterranean.
As the military and diplomatic phases of the Syrian civil war begin to merge, naval forces from those countries actively involved in the war, such as Turkey and Russia have increased their presence in the area. In addition, American, French and other major western naval powers have also increased their naval forces in the area.
As a result, the Israeli navy has been compelled to beef up its forces in the area, to ensure its presence and capabilities are felt by all naval forces in the region. “The eastern Mediterranean has become a gunboat diplomacy theater.” “Russian, American, Turkish, Greek, British, and French Naval forces are all making their presence felt in the area, sending a message that it could be dangerous to ignore their interests in the area.” “As a result, we find ourselves performing a similar mission.” The eastern Mediterranean is of vital importance to Israel, especially in light of the Israeli gas fields in the area.” “Defending them, and ensuring they do not come under attack is one of the navy’s prime missions,” he said.
A large number of naval forces in a relatively small area can sometimes create tense situations. Last week a Turkish missile corvette sailing about 200 kilometers off the Israeli coast came within a few hundred meters of an Israeli Sa’ar 5 missile corvette. Despite the recent rapprochement between the two countries, it nevertheless was a tense situation for a few minutes, as it seemed the Turks were playing a game of chicken”. “After a few moments, the Turks realized they had gotten too close for comfort, and discreetly backed away.
“These days it is not uncommon for us to identify over 20 naval vessels sailing in the area between Israel, Cyprus, and Turkey.” “Up to two years ago, five ships a day was a big day for us.”
The Sa’ar 5 is considered the world’s most advanced missile corvettes. Although technically a Corvette, in terms of size and displacement, it has the operational capabilities of a frigate class vessel.