Hamas denies Israel's claims that Iran weapons shipment was bound for Gaza
Israel claimed that it intercepted a ship in the Red Sea on Wednesday carrying Iranian "advanced weaponry" bound for Palestinian militants in Gaza, the military said.
Hamas leaders denied the accusations, pointing out that Gaza is under a complete naval blockade by Israel that would make any shipment of arms into the besieged coastal enclave impossible.
Gaza Ministry of Interior spokesman Islam Shahwan said in a statement that Israeli claims were a "dangerous move" to justify Israel's seven-year long blockade.
Shahwan urged journalists to avoid "being tricked by the Israeli narrative about capturing a ship carrying weapons to Gaza," adding that "the sea is completely besieged and closed by the Israeli navy, and any ship which sails will be obstructed."
Israel, which has long accused Iran and Syria of providing military aid to Lebanon's Hezbollah and Palestinian militant groups, said the ship was carrying "advanced weaponry," including rockets "capable of striking anywhere in Israel."
The military said the Syrian-made weapons aboard the "Klos-C" were shipped overland to Iran and then onward towards Gaza by sea before being intercepted between Sudan and Eritrea.
"Dozens of surface-to-surface M302 Syrian-manufactured rockets were found (aboard)," Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told reporters, adding that the crew of the ship had "fully cooperated."
"We know for a fact the Iranians are behind this shipment," Lerner said. "We've been following this for several months."
The military said in an earlier statement it had "prevented an attempt to smuggle an Iranian shipment of advanced weaponry intended for terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip."
The military spokesman's office tweeted that the rockets were "capable of striking anywhere in Israel."