Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday said the country is prepared to engage militarily directly with Iran, amid rising tensions in the region as Iran increases its nuclear capabilities and as hardliner Ebrahim Raisi is sworn into the presidency.
Asked in an interview with the Ynet news site whether Israel was ready to strike in Iran if need be, Gantz responded simply, “Yes.”
Still, he added, Israel was focused on an effort to mobilize the international community to rein Tehran in, “because we can’t tag Iran as solely an Israeli problem and absolve the rest of the world from this issue.
“The world needs to deal with Iran, the region needs to deal with Iran, and Israel also needs to do its part in this situation,” he declared.
When asked if he was referring to the world also getting involved in military action against Iran, the defense minister answered in the affirmative.
Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday named the Iranian commanders they said were behind last week’s deadly drone attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Oman.
“Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC’s Air Force, is behind dozens of terror attacks in the region employing UAVs and missiles,” Gantz told envoys from countries on the United Nations Security Council during a briefing at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. “For the first time ever, I will also expose the man who is directly responsible for the launch of suicide UAVs — his name is Saeed Ara Jani and he is the head of the IRGC’s UAV command.”
Israel is seeking to convene the UN Security Council over the deadly drone attack on the MT Mercer Street oil tanker, blamed on Iran by Israel and the international community. The attack killed a Briton and a Romanian.
Israel believes the ship was targeted due to it being operated by a company owned by an Israeli. Iran has denied involvement in the attack.
On Tuesday, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan sent a letter to the Security Council demanding it urgently address the incidents at sea and condemn Iran over the drone attack on the Mercer Street.
The briefing came a day after Iranian-backed forces also reportedly took control of a tanker in the Gulf of Oman in an incident British authorities described as “a potential hijack.” The ship was eventually released. Details of the event remain unclear.
Tensions in the region come as new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi takes the oath before parliament Thursday. He has been branded by Israel as the “Hangman of Tehran” over his alleged involvement in the mass killings of prisoners toward the end of the 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq.
The maritime incidents come amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers and as commercial shipping in the region has found itself caught in the crosshairs.
Gantz also warned in the Wednesday briefing to the envoys that Iran was just some 10 weeks away from acquiring enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb.
US President Joe Biden has signaled his readiness to return to the 2015 nuclear deal and has engaged in indirect negotiations with Iran alongside formal talks with the agreement’s remaining parties, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
Israel has long been against the nuclear deal and opposes Biden’s stated intentions to reenter the treaty, which former US president Donald Trump backed out of.
Lazar Berman and agencies contributed to this report.