Iranian arms ship Ashdod 248.88.
(photo credit: )
A day after the IDF operation in which an Iranian arms shipment headed for Syria and allegedly intended for Hizbullah was captured some 100 nautical miles west of Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the international community concerning Iran's material support for terrorist organizations.
"The time has come for the international community to apply real pressure on Iran to cease these criminal operations and give backing to Israel when it defends itself against the terrorists and their sponsors," he said in a statement Wednesday evening.
Regarding those who may doubt Iran's continual support for terrorist organizations, the prime minister said, "Whoever still needed decisive proof that Iran continues to send weapons to terrorist organizations, received it today in a very clear and unequivocal way."
President Shimon Peres said that the capture of the Iranian weapons shipment was an important achievement for the IDF and the State of Israel.
"The ship, probably hailing from Iran, was destined to reach Syria and Hizbullah. All sides involved deny [any connection] but the world is aware of the gap between what Syria and Iran say and how they actually act," Peres added.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak commended IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Navy Commander Vice-Admiral Eliezer Marom for the operation.
"This is another success in the incessant battle against the smuggling of arms and the military buildup by terrorist organizations who threaten Israel's security," he said.
The defense minister was speaking during a Yitzhak Rabin memorial service held by the 'Mahane' organization at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl cemetery.
There will be other such smuggling attempts in the future, he said, and Israel will have to "make every effort to thwart them."
Three Iranian weapons shipments were recently intercepted at sea. According to Channel 10, Wednesady's naval operation "will neither help nor hinder," but may deter Iran from delivering large amounts of weapons by sea because of the huge losses incurred by seized shipments.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni also hailed the Navy's seizure.
"We all today praise the Navy and IDF over the seizure of the ship - it's not a controversial matter. There are issues over which there are no coalition and opposition," she said at a convention in the Knesset regarding the drought levy. "We are all partners in the people of Israel's war on terror - whether it's Hamas, Hizbullah or other supporters [of terror]. Well done."
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem on Wednesday afternoon denied that the cargo ship was carrying weapons from Iran, and implicitly called the Israeli naval forces "pirates."
"Unfortunately there are official pirates disrupting the movement of goods between Iran and Syria," he told reporters on a visit to Teheran. "I stress, the ship was not carrying Iranian arms bound for Syria, nor was it carrying material for manufacturing weapons in Syria. It was carrying [commercial] goods from Syria to Iran."
Lebanese MP Michel Aoun, who in 2006 became aligned with Hizbullah, remarked later on Wednesday that Lebanon would get its arms from China if not from Iran, adding that such weapons would be better suited to the "liberation of Palestine" than to the internal Lebanese conflict.
Also commenting on the issue was a US State Department official, who said that the US was concerned over "Hizbullah's efforts to rearm in direct violation of various UN Security Council resolutions," adding that the terrorist organization remained "a significant threat to peace and security in Lebanon and the region."
Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.