MIDDLE EAST

Israeli PM accuses Iran of 'brazenly lying' about rockets seized at sea

Israeli PM Netanyahu says arms seized at sea were bound for Gaza

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 March, 2014, 9:39pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2014, 12:58am
AFP

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Iran has denied involvement with a shipment of 40 long-range rockets that were intercepted by Israel, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Tehran of "brazenly lying".

Israel said on Sunday that it had found the rockets on a ship in the Red Sea, claiming that the weapons were being sent by Iran to Gaza Strip militants. A statement from the Israeli military said the M-302 rockets ,with a range of 160km, were found in containers offloaded from the Panamanian-flagged Klos-C.

The vessel was intercepted by Israeli commandos last Wednesday between Sudan and Eritrea and escorted to the Red Sea port of Eilat by two warships.

It arrived late on Saturday and was inspected and unloaded on Sunday.

A statement said security forces searching the Klos-C had found "40 rockets [type M-302}, up to the range of 160km, 181 122mm mortar shells [and] approximately 400,000 7.62-calibre rounds".

"Each one of these rockets poses a threat to the safety of the citizens of Israel. Each bullet and each rocket that was discovered had an Israeli address," army chief Lieutenant General Benny Gantz told sailors who took part in the operation.

"Our efforts in preventing the proliferation of weapons and the supply of critical components with strategic influence over the region is not over," Gantz said.

Netanyahu and Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon were due to attend a news conference in Eilat at which the weaponry was to be put on display.

Public radio said ambassadors and military attaches would also be there to see the equipment in a move that would "prove to the world that Iran sends military aid to terrorist groups active in the Gaza Strip".

Netanyahu accused Tehran of "brazenly lying" over its involvement in the shipment, in remarks he said were directed at EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is in Iran.

"I'd like to ask her if she asked her Iranian hosts about the delivery of weapons to the terror groups, and if she didn't, why not?" he said.

"Nobody has the right to ignore the real, murderous actions of the regime in Tehran," he added.

Ashton's visit, the first by a EU foreign affairs chief since 2008, comes after Iran signed a preliminary deal in November with world powers under which it agreed to curb its disputed nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday rejected the Israeli allegation of Tehran's involvement in the weapons shipment.

 

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