Israel is displaying a vast array of what it says are Iranian weapons from a ship captured on the high seas.
Israel has invited foreign diplomats to view the booty from a ship seized by Israeli commandos in a daring raid Wednesday near Cyprus. Officials say hundreds of tons of Iranian arms, including rockets, missiles, mortars, grenades and anti-tank weapons, were headed to the Islamic guerrilla group Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah denies the charge.
|A port worker points at rockets seized by Israeli authorities on a ship near Cyprus, and presented in the port of the Israeli city of Ashdod, Wednesday, 4 Nov. 2009|
Hezbollah television said the group was not involved in the weapons shipment and it accused Israel of "piracy in international waters." State-run Iranian TV described the arms ship as "Israeli propaganda."
Israel has not provided proof of the Hezbollah link, but it displayed containers from the boat that had Iranian shipping codes in English. The military says it also found an Iranian document showing the shipment originated in Iran. The captured ship was flying an Antiguan flag.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says these documents, as well as the route taken by the ship and interrogation of the crew, provide absolute proof of the involvement of both Iran and its proxy Hezbollah.
Interviewed on Israel Radio, Lieberman described Iran, Syria and Hezbollah as "the axis of evil" that is trying to destabilize the region.
The interception of the ship underscores growing tensions between Israel and Iran over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes, but Israel believes Teheran is building nuclear weapons that could be used against the Jewish state.
Israeli officials say the weapons shipment is a further warning to the international community to stop Iran before it is too late.