Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that the ship carrying hundreds of tons of weapons believed to have originated in Iran and meant for Hezbollah, which Israel intercepted early Wednesday, constituted a war crime that should be reviewed by United Nations bodies.
"This was a ship carrying a massive amount of weapons which the Iranian regime tried to ship to Syria, and from there to Hezbollah," the prime minister said during a press conference he convened at the Tel Aviv defense headquarters. "The bulk of the shipment included rockets whose aim is to hurt our citizens and kill as many civilians as possible. This constitutes a war crime."
"The UN General Assembly should have investigated and condemned this crime and the UN Security Council should have convened a special session to debate this incident," Netanyahu continued.
"This is a war crime which Iran intends to commit again in the future. The international community should be focusing on this, but instead, the world condemns Israel and the Israel Defense Forces and undermines our right to self defense," he said, referring to Wednesday's UN General Assembly debate over the Goldstone report, which accuses Israel of having committed war crimes in Gaza last winter.
"It is time that the international community, at least the more responsible countries, recognize the reality and refrain from promoting a lie," Netanyahu went on to say.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah denied that the arms were bound for them.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Navy Commander Eliezer Marom lauded the commandos who carried out the operation which culminated in the seizure of some 300 tons of weapons.
Military Intelligence Director Amos Yadlin said that the arms ship serves as evidence of what he termed the activity of the Iranian octopus. "This isn't just about weapons, but also about money used to fund terror and weapons and the training of Hamas and Hezbollah operatives in Iran," he said.
Israel instructs its diplomats: Harness arms ship seizure to direct pressure toward Iran
The Foreign Ministry issued a document to Israeli embassies and consulates around the world on Wednesday, instructing diplomats to utilize Israel's seizure of the ship to direct international pressure toward Iran.
Israeli diplomats were instructed to stress Iran's violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions forbidding it from supplying weapons to Syria or Hezbollah.
The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem instructed diplomats to emphasize in interviews and conferences the fact that the ship that was seized en route to Syria, with a planned stop in Beirut. The diplomats were further asked to explain that the Israeli navy's actions, including diverting the ship to Ashdod, were all executed with the crew's cooperation.
Israel will use this event to put Iran in the limelight. The Foreign Ministry argues that this arms shipment is a blatant violation of UNSC resolution 1747 which forbids Iran from exporting weapons and ammunition. "Since these weapons are meant for the northern terror front, this is also a blatant violation of UN resolution 1701," the memo read.
The Foreign Ministry also asked embassies and consulates to issue a statement saying "Iran is continuing to smuggle weapons to terror organizations under the guise of legitimate international trade, and thus turns the Mediterranean Sea into a base for illegal activity."
It was further emphasized that "Iran is challenging the UN Security Council and poses a strategic threat to the stability and peace of the world."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that anyone who was still skeptical over Iran's continuous supply of weapons to terror organizations, was given conclusive proof when the Francop's cargo was exposed.
"Iran is shipping weapons to terror organizations in order to attack Israeli cities and kill its citizens. It is time that the international community applied real pressure on Iran to stop these criminal actions, and support Israel in its battle against terrorists and their patrons," Netanyahu said.