Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said that while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani smiles to the world in the negotiations over its nuclear program, Israel’s seizure of a weapons-laden Iranian ship en route to Gaza shows how that regime is “sending deadly weapons to terrorist organizations.”
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said the ship’s capture proves that “Iran continues to be the greatest exporter of terror in the world.”
In a joint statement, Netanyahu said: “I would like to commend the IDF, the intelligence services of the State of Israel and – of course – the Navy commanders and personnel who carried out a perfect operation to intercept a secret Iranian weapons ship.”
“At a time when it is talking to the major powers, Iran smiles and says all sorts of nice things, the same Iran is sending deadly weapons to terrorist organizations and is doing so via a ramified network of secret operations in order to send rockets, missiles and other deadly weapons that will be used to harm innocent citizens,” he said, noting the irony of the ship’s capture on the day Iran began two more days of talks over its nuclear program on the sidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors meeting, in Vienna.
“This is the true Iran and this state cannot possess nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “We will continue to do whatever is necessary in order to defend Israel’s citizens.”
Defense Minister Ya’alon said that when Israel’s naval Special Forces seized the Iranian ship in the Red Sea, almost 1,500 miles from the Israeli coast, “weapons of strategic significance were discovered on the Iranian vessel, including rockets capable of reaching various distances.”
“The arms were destined to reach terror organizations in the Gaza Strip via Sudan,” he said. “The IDF and Israeli intelligence’s interception of the vessel successfully prevented the smuggling of these weapons whose ultimate purpose was to target Israeli civilians and disrupt life in Israel.”
Ya’alon said, “It has once again become clear that Iran continues to be the greatest exporter of terror in the world, with the express purpose of destabilizing the Middle East. This, while in complete violation of international law and abuse of open maritime trading routes.”
“Iran supplies financial support, arms and training to terror organizations in the region and around the world, and its failed effort to transfer the weapons discovered this morning, is additional evidence,” Ya’alon said. “The Iranian regime continues to deceive the world; while it shows its smiling face it continues to be the biggest threat to world peace.”
“This Iranian attempt to transfer weapons to the Gaza Strip is additional evidence that Gaza is a terrorist entity under Iranian auspices preparing to strike deep into Israel.”
Ya’alon said IDF forces are currently searching the shipping containers on board the ship and questioning the crew, who do not appear to have been aware of the vessel’s contents.