Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed mock-surprise Thursday that Israel announced its capture of an Iranian arms ship during the annual AIPAC conference.
"An Iranian ship carrying arms for Gaza. Captured just in time for annual AIPAC anti Iran campaign. Amazing Coincidence! Or same failed lies," Zarif wrote on his English Twitter account.
The secretive and complex operation was carried out several hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to the annual AIPAC conference in the US. In his speech, Netanyahu called Iran a terror state that must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons, and pledged that he would do whatever it took to protect Israel.
Warning the international community against Iran's Israeli-dubbed "charm offensive," Netanyahu said Tehran "wheels out its smiling president and its smooth-talking foreign minister. But if you listen to their words, their soothing words, they don't square with Iran's aggressive actions."
"Why doesn't it divulge the secrets of its military nuclear activities? ... Iran says it's not building nuclear weapons. So why does it continue to build ICBMs, intercontinental ballistic missiles, whose only purpose is to carry nuclear warheads?"
The IDF said Wednesday that it seized an Iranian ship carrying advanced weapons destined for Gaza on Tuesday night and towed it to the Eilat port. Elite troops from the Navy's Shayetet 13 unit boarded the ship in open waters on the maritime border of Sudan and Eritrea, some 1,500 kilometers south of Israel.
The Klos C Iranian vessel was sailing under a Panamanian flag, making its way to Sudan from Iran carrying a cargo of advanced rockets capable of reaching distances of up to 200 kilometers.
The hundreds of soldiers who took part in the operation to seize the ship in the Red Sea were still making their way north on Thursday, and are currently some 800 kilometers away from the Eilat bay.
'Iran will investigate weapon shipment failure'
Iran is now reevaluating its weapons smuggling after its attempt to ship advanced rockets to Gaza through the southern route failed, a senior IDF source said Thursday.
"We are estimating that they will stop trying to smuggle weapons through the southern route for several months," he said.
The source noted that "exposing the ship may lead to an investigation within the Revolutionary Guard about the leaks that caused the operation to fail."
Military Intelligence Chief Brig.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said Thursday that "IDF intelligence units followed (the ship) and constructed an intelligence puzzle for many months. We have substantial evidence that strengthens Iran's ties to the affair and incriminate (them). The Revolutionary Guard and Iran's Quds Forces ran this smuggling operation. It is another example of Iran's operations to destabilize the Middle East and reinforce terror organization everywhere.
"Iran is repeatedly violating UN Security Council Resolution 1747 which bars it from selling and distributing weapons. The missiles' movement by planes eastward, from Damascus to Iran, sparked the intelligence process."