Jerusalem – Israel says it has seized an arms shipment on the high seas and it is pointing a finger at Iran.
Israeli naval commandos stormed onto a ship loaded with weapons near Cyprus and took it to Israel’s southern port of Ashdod. The vessel was flying an Antiguan flag and disguised as an aid ship. The military says 54 metric tons of weapons were on board, including missiles, anti-tank weapons and mortars. Israeli military officials say the weapons were from Iran and the shipment was destined for the Islamic guerrilla group Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Iranian officials had no immediate comment on the allegations.
Shaul Mofaz, an Israeli parliamentarian and former army chief of staff, says a radical axis of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza are trying to destabilize the Middle East.
Mofaz told Israel Radio that the ship was carrying weapons with one intention: to harm Israeli civilians.
During the month-long Lebanon War in 2006, Hezbollah fired more than 4,000 rockets across the border at Israel. Now, Israel says Iran and Syria are rearming Hezbollah in violation of a United Nations ceasefire resolution.
Mofaz said it is clear that Hezbollah is arming and preparing for the next war.
The interception of the ship comes amid growing tensions between Israel and Iran over Teheran’s nuclear program. Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes, but its president has threatened to wipe the Jewish state “off the map”; and Israel has threatened to launch a pre-emptive strike to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Israeli officials say the capture of the ship is a message to Iran that Israel is prepared to take unconventional steps to defend itself.
‘VOA News issued this report’