JERUSALEM, May 30 (UPI) -- Israel is deploying three submarines with nuclear cruise missiles to the Persian Gulf near the coastline of Iran, The Sunday Times of London reports.
The newspaper said one of the submarines has already been sent as a deterrent in response to Israeli fears ballistic missiles developed by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah could hit sites in Israel, including air bases and missile launchers.
The German-built subs of Flotilla 7 have visited the gulf before but Israel has now decided to keep at least one there permanently.
The flotilla's commander, identified only as "Col. O," told an unidentified Israeli newspaper: "We are an underwater assault force. We're operating deep and far, very far, from our borders," the Sunday Times said.
Each sub carries up to 50 crew members and is commanded by a colonel authorized to launch a nuclear cruise missile.
The submarines can stay at sea about 50 days and remain submerged at least a week. Some of the cruise missiles the vessels contain carry the most advanced nuclear warheads in Israel's arsenal, the Sunday Times said.
The deployment is designed to act as a deterrent and gather intelligence.
An Israeli navy officer said the warheads could be used if Iran continues its nuclear program.
"The 1,500-kilometer (932-mile) range of the submarines' cruise missiles can reach any target in Iran," the officer said.
An Iranian admiral, apparently responding to the deployment, told the Sunday Times: "Anyone who wishes to do an evil act in the Persian Gulf will receive a forceful response from us."