Two Iranian naval ships entered the Suez Canal today, the first time in 30 years that Tehran has sent military ships through the strategic waterway.
The frigate and a supply vessel are expected to reach the Mediterranean later en route to Syria.
Israel views the passage as a provocation but refused to comment today.
The canal linking the Red Sea and the Mediterranean enables ships to avoid a lengthy voyage around Africa.
The Iranian ships are headed for a training mission in Syria, a close ally of Iran’s hard-line Islamic rulers and an enemy of Israel.
The ships paid about $300,000 (€219,000) in fees for the passage.
Iran’s request to send them through the Suez Canal came as Egypt’s new military rulers try to focus on pressing domestic issues, including restoring security.
The military rulers apparently had no choice but to grant the ships passage because an international convention says the canal must be open “to every vessel of commerce or of war.”
Egypt also cannot search naval ships passing through.
Iranian warships have not passed through the Suez Canal since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Egyptian-Iranian ties broke down following the Islamic Revolution and the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty the same year. Later, the relationship improved slightly, with contacts currently channelled through interest sections in the two capitals.