Iran said Wednesday it was stepping up efforts to arm West Bank Palestinians for battle against Israel, with Basij militia chief Mohammad Reza Naqdi saying the move would lead to Israel’s annihilation, Iran’s Fars news agency reported.
“Arming the West Bank has started and weapons will be supplied to the people of this region,” Naqdi, who heads the nationwide paramilitary network, said.
“The Zionists should know that the next war won’t be confined to the present borders and the Mujahedeen will push them back,” he added. Naqdi claimed that much of Hamas’s arsenal, training and technical knowhow in the recent conflict with Israel was supplied by Iran.
On Monday Iran’s state TV broadcast footage showing a purported Israeli drone that the country’s Revolutionary Guard says it shot down near an Iranian nuclear site, and Tehran said it would retaliate by supplying weapons to Palestinians in the West Bank.
Arabic-language Al-Alam aired a brief video on Monday filmed in a desert area showing what the channel said were parts of the drone. A TV scroll said the drone was downed on Saturday.
There were no visible Israeli markings on it.
Tehran will “accelerate” arming Palestinians in the occupied West Bank in retaliation for Israel deploying the spy drone over Iran, a military commander said earlier this week.
“We will accelerate the arming of the West Bank and we reserve the right to give any response,” said General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, commander of aerial forces of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, in a statement on its official website, sepahnews.com.
In late July, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei published statements condemning Operation Protective Edge and saying that the West Bank should be armed like Gaza.
The more recent warning came a day after the Guards said they had brought down the Israeli “stealth drone” above the center of the country.
The Guards issued a statement on Sunday, saying its forces fired a missile at the drone as it neared Iran’s uranium enrichment facility in Natanz, some 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of the capital, Tehran.
The Israeli army has declined to comment on the matter.
AP, AFP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.