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BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrilla group denied Thursday any connection with a shipment of weapons that Israel said it had intercepted on the high seas.
Israeli officials said Wednesday that naval commandos had seized a ship carrying hundreds of tonnes of Iranian-supplied arms, including rockets, to the Shi'ite Muslim group.
"Hezbollah denies any link to the weapons that the Zionist enemy claims it removed from the vessel Francop," the group said in a statement. "At the same time it condemns Israeli piracy in international waters."
Israeli Commodore Ran Ben-Yehuda, speaking Wednesday as the search of the Antigua-flagged Francop was under way in Israel's Mediterranean port of Ashdod, said the weapons were found behind civilian goods in at least 40 shipping containers.
Israel later released the ship and it left Ashdod on Wednesday night along with all of its crew, Israeli officials said.
Ben-Yehuda said the arms shipment was enough to keep Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which fired some 4,000 rockets into Israel during a 34-day war in 2006, supplied for a month of fighting.
"The weapons came from Iran and were meant for Hezbollah," Ben-Yehuda said after the ship was intercepted in international waters about 100 miles (160 km) from Israel.
He said the crates of bullets, rocket-propelled grenades and rockets were picked up by the Francop in the Egyptian port of Damietta and were to have reached Hezbollah via Syria.
Syria and Iran have also denied the Israeli allegations.
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)