US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed on Wednesday that "the Israeli government interdicted a shipment of illicit Iranian arms," adding that the US was ready to act before Israel made its move.
"The White House directed the Department of Defense to monitor the vessel," Psaki said, adding that the US prepared to take "unilateral steps" to stop the shipment. Israel volunteered to handle the ship itself, she added.
The transfer of arms would amount to a violation of UN Security Council resolutions, Psaki noted.
The Israel Navy intercepted an Iranian arms smuggling ship carrying dozens of long-range rockets to Gaza near Port Sudan early on Wednesday.
Iranian and Hamas denial
An official source in the Iranian armed forces told Iranian Tasnim news agency on Wednesday that the IDF accusation that arms found on a ship came from Tehran is "baseless and false."
Gaza was quick to deny knowledge of the incoming shipment of arms, saying that Israeli claims were a "dangerous move" to justify Israel's naval blockade of the coastal enclave.
Spokesman for the Gaza Ministry of Interior Islam Shahwan told journalists to avoid "being tricked by the Israeli narrative about capturing a ship carrying weapons to Gaza."
(The Klos-C, IDF Spokesperson)
Hamas claims that the the idea is absurd because the naval blockade would prevent the ship from reaching them anyway, even though the IDF claims that the ship would have landed in Egypt and weapons would have been smuggled through tunnels.