AFP – Israel will on Monday display weaponry from an intercepted ship it says was destined for Gaza in a bid to expose the “true face of Iran” which allegedly dispatched it.
The military says it found 40 long-range M-302 rockets aboard the Panamanian-flagged Klos-C it intercepted in the Red Sea last week, as well as 181 122mm mortar shells and approximately 400,000 7.62-calibre rounds.
The arsenal will be put on show at a news conference in the southern port city of Eilat at 1430 GMT by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon and navy chief Vice Admiral Ram Rutberg
Netanyahu said the seizure of the ship not only foiled the delivery of lethal weapons to Gaza but served to “expose the true face of Iran, which was behind it”.
Iran has flatly denied any involvement with the shipment, but Netanyahu accused the Islamic republic of “brazenly lying”.
“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 said at the weekend.
If fired from Gaza, M-302 rockets, which have a range of 160 kilometres, could easily reach Tel Aviv.
Ambassadors and military attaches are also expected to be taken to see the haul as Israel seeks to demonstrate evidence of Iran’s ties with militant groups.
World powers are currently engaged in talks with Iran to roll back its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.
But Israel, which believes Iran is trying to build a military nuclear capability, has lashed out at the negotiations, arguing that the West is being duped over Tehran’s true intentions.
On Sunday, Netanyahu attacked EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton for her landmark visit to Tehran to discuss the nuclear talks and bolster ties.
“I’d like to ask her if she asked her Iranian hosts about the delivery of weapons to terror groups, and if she didn’t ask, why not?” he said.
The Islamist Hamas movement ruling Gaza, as well as its smaller Islamic Jihad rivals, have denied any involvement in the shipment.
And Sudan, where Israel said the weapons were to be offloaded before being shipped overland to Gaza via Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula, has also denied any involvement.