A new chapter in the endless saga of reciprocal accusations between Israel and Iran has been written on Wednesday, after a shipment loaded with weapons allegedly bound for Gaza was intercepted by Israeli military forces on the Red Sea and quickly attributed to Iran.
According to Israeli reports, the shipment concealed weaponry destined to terrorist groups in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
The Israeli army claimed that the M-302 rockets found on board of the vessels were fabricated in Syria and had been sailing for several weeks. They also claimed that the weapons were flown to the port of Bandar Abbas in Iran and from there sent to Sudan’s main port, after a short stop in Iraq.
According to military sources, the Panamanian-flagged civilian cargo was probably headed for Egypt, from where the weapons would have been smuggled into the Gaza Strip.
The explanation offered by Israel is rather puzzling, as some observers pointed out that all the land crossways to Gaza are sealed by Egypt in the south and by Israel in the east.
Asked about the curious route chosen by Iran for the shipment of weapons to Gaza, the Israeli Defence Forces were not able to offer plausible explanations. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, however, quickly admitted the army does not know the plan of the terrorists yet, but they “know the weapons where headed to Gaza.”
The Iranian agency Fars News said on Wednesday that a source of the Islāmic Republic’s Armed forces had called Israeli allegation a “sheer lie.” Furthermore, the agency quoted a spokesperson of Hamas’s Interior Ministry as saying that Israel had captured the weapons’ shipment and attributed it to Iran as a pretext to justify the on-going blockade of Gaza.
To lend credibility to his argument, the spokesperson explained that Hamas leadership knows too well that Gaza is under strict Israeli surveillance and that it would be extremely naïve on their side to just send such a large cargo via the sea.
Meanwhile, the cargo seizure offered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an opportunity to reiterate an unflinching repertoire of accusations against Iran during his visit to the United States on Wednesday.
Netanyahu, who called the recent Iran’s Uranium deal with World Powers “a historic mistake,” held a speech at the annual conference of that AIPAC maintaning that, despite its talks with major powers, Iran’s true goal is still to arm terrorists against Israel and to pursue its atomic aspirations.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Palestinian officials are raising doubts about the operation. In particular, the officials find suspicious that, after sailing for weeks, the ship “is seized exactly when Netanyahu is in Washington.” According to the same officials, such perfect timing suggests that Israel might have fabricated the events.
While it is difficult to take side or even tell truth from lies in the long-standing squabble between Tel Aviv and Teheran, the fact that Israel so quickly attributed to Iran a weapons’ shipment allegedly headed to Gaza on a civilian vessel flying Panamanian flag and seized of the coast of Sudan is definitely bound to raise some eyebrows around the globe.
By Stefano Salustri