Israel, Iran exchange threats of war and destruction

Israel recently escalated its rhetoric to warn that it is ready to strike inside Iran over Tehran’s nuclear programme and role in the region.
Saturday 13/07/2019
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speaks at the Israeli Air Force pilots’ graduation ceremony at Hatzerim Airbase in southern Israel, June 27. (Reuters)
War rhetoric. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speaks at the Israeli Air Force pilots’ graduation ceremony at Hatzerim Airbase in southern Israel, June 27. (Reuters)

TUNIS - Israel and Iran have threatened each other with military strikes amid financial and political pressure from the United States on Tehran over its policies in the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned that Israel’s fighter jets could reach Iran.

“Recently, Iran has been threatening the destruction of Israel,” Netanyahu said July 9 at Nevatim Airbase in southern Israel, where he was inspecting F-35 jets. “It would do well to remember that these planes can reach anywhere in the Middle East, including Iran and certainly Syria.”

A senior Iranian parliamentarian said Israel would be destroyed within 30 minutes if the United States attacked Iran.

“If the US attacks us, only half an hour will remain in Israel’s lifespan,” Mojtaba Zolnour, chairman of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission said July 1, the semi-official Mehr News Agency reported.

Israel has admitted to attacking Iranian targets and Tehran’s proxies in Syria. Israel boasted in 2018 to be the first country to use F-35s in combat. However, Israel recently escalated its rhetoric to warn that it is ready to strike inside Iran over Tehran’s nuclear programme and role in the region.

Israel’s Channel 12 television reported that Israeli intelligence agencies prevented Islamic State and Iran-sponsored attacks in different countries in the past three years by providing authorities in those counties with information about the potential attacks.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on July 2 that Israel was preparing for possible military involvement should there be a confrontation between the United States and Iran.

“It should be taken into account that mistaken calculations by the (Iranian) regime… are liable to bring about a shift from the ‘grey zone’ to the ‘red zone’ — that is, a military conflagration,” he said.

“We must be prepared for this and thus the State of Israel continues to devote itself to building up its military might for the event that it will have to respond to escalation scenarios.”

Iran announced that it would breach commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after the United States withdrew from the agreement and imposed sanctions on Tehran.

Netanyahu said the announcement was a “very dangerous step” and called on European countries to sanction Tehran. “It’s important to respond to these actions not by reducing the pressure but by increasing the pressure,” he said.

Iran denied having military intentions for its nuclear programme but European countries urged Tehran to stick to the deal despite Washington’s withdrawal.

“We regret this decision by Iran, which calls into question an essential instrument of nuclear non-proliferation,” the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain said in a statement July 2. “We urge Iran to reverse this step and to refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal.”

US Vice-President Mike Pence said the United States would not waiver from its target of maximum pressure against Iran.

“We will never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon,” Pence said July 8. “Iran must choose between caring for its people and continuing to fund its proxies who spread violence and terrorism throughout the region and breathe out murderous hatred against Israel.”

Pence’s remarks echoed a warning from US President Donald Trump a day earlier. “Iran better be careful,” Trump said.

Observers fear a US-Iran military confrontation might spill into the rest of the region, especially in countries where Iran has loyal proxies.

An errant missile recently struck Cyprus on in a spillover from Israeli strikes in Syria.

“It is understood that a missile fired from Syria fell here by accident, as a result of being fired in an uncontrolled way by batteries… in response to the intense attacks yesterday evening by Israel,” Turkish Cypriot Foreign Minister Kudret Ozersay said at a July 1 news conference.

“Based on our initial assessment, it is the remains of a missile which is known as S-200 in the Russian system and SA-5 in the NATO system,” he added. “Undoubtedly we invite Syria, Israel and other countries in the region to take into account the human and material security of neighbouring countries, to take the necessary measures and for everyone to behave calmly.”

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