A senior Iranian commander said a possible Israeli airstrike against his country’s nuclear facilities is “welcome” because it would give Iran a reason to retaliate and “get rid of” the Jewish state “forever.”

The remarks by Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guard’s air force, were reported Saturday by the official IRNA news agency.

Hajizadeh said that in the event of an Israeli strike, Iran’s response would be “swift, decisive and destructive.” But he also claimed that Israeli threats of a strike are just part of a psychological war against Iran.

Hajizadeh told the news agency that the Islamic resistance would not bypass an opportunity to avenge the “massacres” allegedly perpetrated by Israel against Palestinian targets and Iranian nuclear scientists.

The top-ranking military official was said to be responding to recent “threatening” remarks made by Israel against the regime in Tehran.

Iran’s leadership on Friday used the annual Al-Quds day protests against Israel to repeat its oft-stated calls for Israel’s elimination. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad branded Israel “an insult to humanity” and “a cancerous tumor” and called for “a new Middle East with no trace of Americans or Zionists.”

Israeli media has been full of reports in recent weeks of a possible Israeli military strike on Iran — with politicians and security chiefs weighing in. President Shimon Peres sparked a furor over the weekend by declaring that Israel could not “go it alone” against Iran and adding that he trusted President Barack Obama to prevent Iran from getting the bomb.

In a Channel 2 interview on Friday night, opposition leader Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were leading Israel toward a potentially “disastrous” war with a strike on Iran, and said their decision-making was flawed and over-hasty. An Israeli strike could only set back Iran by a few months to a year, he said.

In contrast, former Israel Air Force commander (1992-96) Herzl Bodinger, also speaking on Friday, said Israel had to take care of its own defense. Israel “should have hit Iran” years ago, Bodinger said on Channel 1′s Friday night news, “when there was only one facility” that needed to be taken out.

Meanwhile, also on Friday, a top Iranian official warned that Syria is the battleground between an Islamic awakening across the Middle East and an attempt by the US to dominate the region. The battle to topple Assad is a US plan to take control of the Middle East, the official said, pointing to American involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq as examples.

“In Syria, we are faced with a final game between Iran and the US,” said Mohsen Rezaie, secretary of the Expediency Council that advises supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“If the US takes hold of Syria, the entire Islamic awakening will come under the US control — but if Syria remains unchanged, the Islamic Awakening [Iran's term for the Arab Spring] will advance more seriously and more speedily,” he added.

Rezaie described the “well-armed gangs” that attack Syrian police forces, referring to what he called Israeli, US and Arab plots to stir unrest in the country: “The US and its western and regional allies have long sought to topple [Syrian President] Bashar Assad.”

Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been providing arms to the Syrian opposition for several months.

The US national security establishment recently stated that Iran is helping and training Bashar Assad’s forces. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that Iran is doing more for the Syrian regime in recent weeks, including providing assistance and training.

“We do not think that Iran ought to be playing that role at this moment in time,” said Panetta.

(AP contributed to this report.)