EILAT, Israel (AP) — A captured ship Israel says carried advanced rockets from Iran bound for Gaza militants arrived to port Saturday, where authorities prepared its cargo for a public display Israel hopes will step up pressure on world powers as they negotiate with Tehran over its nuclear program.
The KLOS C freighter sailed into Israel’s southern Eilat port accompanied by naval vessels and masked commando forces that seized it days earlier in the Red Sea. Israel says the ship was packed with dozens of Syrian-made M-302 rockets that would have put Israel’s biggest cities well within reach of Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. It accuses Iran of orchestrating the delivery in an elaborate 5,000-mile (8,000-kilometer) journey that included covert stops across the region.
Officials in Iran and Gaza have denied being involved with the shipment. But in an interview with Israel Channel 10 TV aired Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that once the ship was fully unloaded “the truth will come out.” Israel plans to unveil the cache Monday with the country’s leaders in attendance.
The interview was conducted this week in the United States, where Netanyahu was pressing his case for more pressure on Iran. He said the naval raid, which took place in the Red Sea hundreds of miles from Israel, showed Iran’s true face and that Israel would expose it to the world.
“My instructions were total silence until we catch the ship, and from the moment that we had control of the ship, to go out and immediately tell the truth, because there is a battle over the truth,” he said.
Israel believes that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, a charge Iran denies. Israel says a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to the existence of the Jewish state, citing Iranian calls for Israel’s destruction, its development of long-range missiles and its support for militant groups.
Netanyahu has been an outspoken critic of the efforts by six world powers to negotiate a deal with Iran that would substantially scale back its nuclear program in exchange for ending international sanctions. He says a current, interim deal gives Iran too much relief while getting little in return, and fears a final agreement would leave Iran with the capability to make a bomb.
Since the global powers reached their interim deal with Iran last November, Netanyahu’s warnings about Iran have been largely ignored by world leaders.
In the interview, which came following a meeting with President Barack Obama, Netanyahu pressed further.
“I don’t just want Iran not to have a bomb. I don’t want Iran to have the ability to make a bomb,” he said. “I don’t outsource Israeli security.”
In a separate interview with Channel 2, part of a series that were the first Netanyahu granted to Israel media outlets in more than a year, the prime minister said he was prepared to reach a peace accord with the Palestinians so long as it marked an end to the conflict.
He added that while in was clear some Jewish settlements won’t be part of a future peace accord, he would make sure the number left out “will be as low as possible.” He would not elaborate on the fate of these settlers.
More than 500,000 settlers live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories that Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war and which the Palestinians hope will be part of their future state.
By The Associated Press
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