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Israel criticizes passage of Iranian warships through Suez Canal

JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel took a "grave view" of the passage of two Iranian warships through the Suez Canal en route to Syria. The ships are expected to start crossing the canal early Tuesday, the Associated Press reported, the first such passage since Iran's 1979 revolution. Egypt's ruling military council granted an Iranian request.

Speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that Iran was "trying to take advantage" of the current instability in the Middle East "and expand its influence by sending two warships through the Suez Canal."

Officials at the canal said Monday that the ships, a frigate and a supply vessel, are close to the southern entrance of the canal, AP reported.

Last week, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called the move a provocation, but an aide to Defense Minister Ehud Barak said it was no cause for alarm.

Israeli naval vessels have traversed the canal on their way to missions in the Red Sea.

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