Israeli troops unload, search Iranian weapons ship

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli military forces began unloading and searching the cargo of an Iranian ship captured in the Red Sea carrying weapons bound for Gaza.

The civilian vessel the Klos C, which was carrying the weapons, including medium-range missiles capable of hitting major Israeli cities, hidden amid commercial cargo, arrived in the Eilat port on Saturday afternoon, escorted by Israeli naval vessels.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the capture of the ship at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday.

“The operation to seize the ship had two goals: Preventing the delivery of deadly weapons to terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, which would have directly endangered Israel’s citizens, and exposing the true face of Iran, which was behind this weapons shipment,” Netanyahu said. “Iran completely denies its involvement; it is lying in the most brazen manner. We will present evidence of this tomorrow and later.”

Israeli forces uncovered dozens of advanced Syrian-made rockets hidden on board the cargo vessel registered in Panama during a brief search in the Red Sea. The weapons reportedly were loaded on in Iran and were scheduled to be unloaded at a port in Sudan, from where they were to be driven on a truck through Egypt to Gaza.

Netanyahu also addressed his comments to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is currently visiting Tehran.

“I would like to ask her if she asked her Iranian hosts about this shipment of weapons for terrorist organizations, and if not, why not. Nobody has the right to ignore the true and murderous actions of the regime in Tehran,” Netanyahu said Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces on Sunday deployed an Iron Dome anti-missile battery system in Eilat to protect the area, following the docking of the Klos C there.

The IDF said it would bring out the rockets and other weaponry for public viewing from the 150 cargo containers aboard the vessel in the next two days.

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