Israel wants missile boats to protect offshore gas fields

Dec. 8, 2013 at 9:12 AM
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HAIFA, Israel, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Israel's Defense Ministry is seeking more money to purchase four German missile boats to protect the country's offshore gas fields, officials said.

The Defense Ministry plans to ask the Finance Ministry for an additional $853 million to buy the missile boats, Haaretz reported Sunday. The Cabinet has tasked the army with protecting the privately owned gas fields, but has yet to discuss financing, the newspaper said.

Yossi Cohen, Israel's national security adviser, visited Berlin last week to discuss the deal, the German newspaper Bild reported. Haaretz said Israel is also discussing the issue with gunboat manufacturers in South Korea and the United States.

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon and army chief Lt.Gen. Benny Gantz some months ago, approved plans to purchase four large gunboats to assist the navy in protecting Israeli gas fields located within Israel's economic zone, an area 200 nautical miles off the coastline, the newspaper said.

While the navy has already started patrolling the gas fields with missile boats, it requires an additional four gunboats to enhance security, the Israeli daily said. The drilling sites themselves are protected by private security firms and aerial patrols.

The Leviathan gas field located in the Mediterranean Sea was discovered in November 2010 -- about 81 miles west of Haifa's coast. The Tamar gas field, also located in the Mediterranean Sea, about 50 miles west of Haifa, was discovered in 2009 and became operational in March this year. In November, another gas field near Tamar called Tamar Southwest was discovered.

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