Iran on Monday denied involvement in the seizure of a cargo ship by Yemen's Houthi rebels in the southern Red Sea amid soaring tensions over the conflict in the Gaza Strip.
In his weekly news briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani termed as "false" the Israeli accusations of Iran's involvement in the incident.
He said regional groups, including Yemen's Houthis, "represent their own countries and make decisions based on the interests of their respective countries and act spontaneously."
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the ship seizure as an "Iranian act of terrorism," while insisting that Israel was not involved in the ship's ownership or operations.
"This represents an escalation in Iran's belligerence against the citizens of the free world, with concomitant international ramifications vis-a-vis the security of global shipping routes," Netanyahu's office said in a statement, adding that there were no Israelis on the ship.
Kanaani said the Israeli accusation was "in the framework of projection and to escape from the dire situation that the Zionist regime is facing."
The Iranian spokesman said Tel Aviv "cannot accept that it has suffered a strategic defeat."
On Sunday, Houthi rebels, who are in control of northern Yemen and its Red Sea coast, said they had seized a cargo ship in the southern Red Sea, adding that the ship belongs to Israel.
Israel, however, said it was a British-owned and Japanese-operated vessel with no Israelis on board.
The Israeli military, in a statement posted on social platform X, termed the hijacking of the ship as "a very grave incident of global consequence."
Houthis, however, insisted that the vessel belonged to Israel and warned that all ships linked to Tel Aviv "will become a legitimate target for (Houthi) armed forces".
Houthis, who are closely allied with Iran, have in recent weeks launched a series of missiles and drones at Israel amid the simmering conflict in Gaza.