Iran has threatened to attack Israel from the West Bank, in retaliation for an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria on Sunday that left 12 Iranian and Hezbollah operatives dead. The airstrike has been attributed to Israel and though Jerusalem has not officially confirmed it, anonymous government sources have admitted as much.
Deputy head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Lt.-Gen. Hossein Salami vowed Saturday to “open new fronts [against Israel] and change the balance of power.” In an excerpt of an interview with Salami, the IRGC’s number two said that Iran and Hezbollah would provide a “special reprisal” to the strike, according to the Tasnim News Agency, adding that opening a new front in the West Bank was in the works.
“Opening up a new front across the West Bank, which is a major section of our dear Palestine, will be certainly on the agenda, and this is part of a new reality that will gradually emerge,” Salami said in the inteview with Iran’s Arabic-language news channel al-Alam.
Iran and Hezbollah have issued a series of threats since the strike earlier this week, warning of a “crushing response,” and “destructive thunderbolts.” The dead included an Iranian general and senior Hezbollah commanders, Muhammad Issa and Jihad Mughniyeh, son of slain terror mastermind Imad Mughniyeh.
On Friday, Channel 10 reported that Israel had sent calming messages to Iran and Hezbollah via Moscow after the strike, clarifying that it was uninterested in an escalating conflict with Tehran or the Lebanese terror group.
According to the report, Israeli officials told Moscow that Israel viewed the strike as an act of self-defense, and that Hezbollah had forced Israel’s hand by building an offensive infrastructure on its border. Jerusalem stressed it did not want the situation to deteriorate into a regional conflict. Russian leaders conveyed this message to Beirut and Tehran.
A report on Channel 2 Friday said the strike targeted the leaders of a substantial new Hezbollah terror hierarchy that was set to attempt kidnappings, rocket attacks and other assaults on military and civilian targets in northern Israel.
The new terror unit involved Mughniyeh, who was coordinating with the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Qasem Soleimani, the Channel 2 report said. There was no suggestion in the report that Soleimani, a key figure in supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah, was in the area at the time.
The terrorist hierarchy included recruitment and intelligence departments, and was set to begin operations targeting Israel from the Syrian Golan, including “kidnappings, firing rockets and mortar shells, and using anti-tank weapons against Israeli residential areas.”
The unit was set up “with Iranian sponsorship,” the report said. Israel’s targeting of some of its members underlined that “a red line was crossed that Israel would not tolerate.”
The TV report said Israel was braced for a response. If that response targeted Israeli civilians, however, subsequent Israeli retaliation would endanger the Assad regime in Syria, Channel 2’s military commentator Roni Daniel said. He did not state a source for that assertion.