An Iranian official denied an Israeli report that Tehran had sent “advanced weaponry” for Palestinian terrorists in Gaza on a ship intercepted by Israel in the Red Sea on Wednesday.
“We completely deny this report which is totally without foundation,” an unnamed military official said, quoted on state-run Iranian television’s Arabic-language Al-Alam channel.
Israel said earlier that its navy intercepted a cargo vessel, the “Klos-C,” in international waters between Sudan and Eritrea that was carrying “an Iranian shipment of advanced weapons.”
The Syrian-made weapons were shipped overland to Iran and then loaded onto the ship, meant to dock in Port Sudan, after which the weapons would have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip through the Sinai Peninsula.
IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, said that, despite the deep rift between Iran and Hamas, the weapons cargo “was meant for all terror organizations, including Hamas.”
Israel has accused Iran of trying to establish similar supply lines by sea to Palestinian militants in Gaza, who have fired dozens of rockets at the Jewish state since the start of 2014. Iran had previously cut funding to Hamas over the organization’s support of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad, although reports in late 2013 suggested that the two had mended their relationship.
For their part, Hamas officials denied that the shipment was bound for Gaza, calling it a “silly joke.”
“This is a new Israeli lie aimed to justify and prolong the blockade of Gaza,” Taher Al-Nono, an adviser of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said according to Reuters.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, still in the US after meeting with President Barack Obama on Iran and ongoing peace talks with the Palestinians, lauded the IDF and castigated Iran.
“I would like to congratulate the IDF, Israel’s intelligence apparatuses and of course the commanders and soldiers of the navy who carried out a flawless operation to capture a covert Iranian weapons ship,” Netanyahu said in a video statement Wednesday.
“As it conducts talks with [world] powers, as Iran smiles and utters pleasantries, the same Iran is sending lethal weapons to terror organizations…via an intricate network of clandestine global operations…in order to hurt innocent civilians,” he added.
“This is the real Iran and this country must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons,” he said. “We will continue to do whatever is necessary to protect Israeli citizens.”