World News

Israeli Navy Seizes Gaza-Bound Iranian Arms

The Israeli military says it seized a ship in the Red Sea Wednesday that was carrying dozens of advanced Iranian-supplied rockets destined for Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

It said the Panamanian-flagged cargo vessel was boarded in international waters off the coasts of Sudan and Eritrea without resistance, and would be escorted to the Israeli port of Eilat within days.

An Israeli military spokesman said the ship was carrying Syrian-made M-302 rockets, a weapon that could have struck deep into Israel from Gaza and would have significantly enhanced the firepower of Palestinian militant groups, such as Hamas.

The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah used M-302s in its 2006 war with Israel.

Israel says the shipment originated in Syria, and was intercepted in an operation that followed months of intelligence gathering.

The French news agency quoted an unnamed Iranian military official on state-run Iranian television as "completely deny[ing] the report which is totally without foundation."

The Israeli military said the Iranians tried to "obscure their tracks" by shipping the weapons along with containers filled with bags of cement, first via Iraq and then out to sea.

Video released by the military showed Israeli soldiers on the ship inspecting the rockets, which were kept in large boxes. The video also showed beige bags containing cement with the words "Made in Iran," in English, written on them.

Israeli officials said the shipment was destined for Sudan, from where it would have been moved overland through Egypt to Gaza. They said the 17-man crew of the ship probably were unaware of the cargo.

Israel accuses Iran of supplying rockets and other arms to militants in Gaza and to Lebanon's Hezbollah, and has moved to intercept weapons shipments in the past.


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