Israel has reportedly vowed to destroy rockets and other weapons being sent to Gaza by Iran. Tel Aviv issued this threat despite a recent ceasefire following eight days of bitter conflict between Gaza and Israel.
Israeli spy satellites spotted a cargo vessel in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas that was allegedly Gaza-bound and carrying arms, the Sunday Times reported.
“Regardless of the ceasefire agreement, we will attack and destroy any shipment of arms to Gaza once we have spotted it,” an Israeli defense official told the newspaper.
The vessel reportedly began its voyage last week just as Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire ending eight days of violence in Gaza, in which over 150 Palestinians died. The cargo is believed to include Fajr-5 rockets, similar to those used by Hamas in the conflict, and Shahab-3 ballistic missiles.
The ship is set to travel through the Red Sea, Sudan and Egypt, according to the Sunday Times report. Later, the weapons will be transported across the desert, disassembled and then smuggled through Sinai tunnels into Gaza. There, the arms will be reassembled by Hamas forces.
The Sunday Times’ report comes a day after the Hamas leadership announced they aren’t ready to stop arming themselves, despite the recently-agreed truce and ceasefire.
"We have no choice but to continue to bring in weapons by all possible means," senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar told reporters, adding that he expected Tehran would "increase its military and financial support to Hamas."
Earlier on Wednesday, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal thanked Shia-majority Iran for what he described as arms and funding.
On Saturday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expressed support for Gaza in the bloody conflict, praising what he called Palestinian "resistance and perseverance" against Israel, which he said must now "bow" to Palestinian rights, IRNA news agency reported.
The eight-day Israeli assault on Gaza killed 168 Palestinians, mostly civilians. It also led to $300 million in economic damage, a Palestinian Chamber of Commerce report said.