Amid rising tensions between Israel and Iran-backed forces in Syria on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a warning to leaders in Tehran, saying, “Anyone who tries to hurt us, we will hurt them.”
Speaking at the inauguration of a new international airport in the country’s south, Netanyahu said Israel’s air force had “delivered powerful blows to Iranian targets in Syria, after Iran fired a rocket from that area toward our territory.”
Netanyahu was referring to three waves of airstrikes by Israel early Monday that targeted first Iranian weapons storehouses, intelligence facilities and a training camp near Damascus, and then Syrian air defense batteries that the IDF said had opened fire on the attacking Israeli fighter jets.
The Israeli strikes were a response to a missile launched from the Damascus area the previous day at the Israeli Golan, but was intercepted before penetrating Israeli airspace by an Iron Dome missile-defense battery.
Referring to the rocket attack, which Israel has attributed to an Iran-backed Shiite militia, Netanyahu vowed that Iran-linked forces “won’t get a pass for such acts of aggression, for Iran’s efforts to entrench itself militarily in Syria, and for Iran’s explicit declarations that it intends to destroy Israel, as Iran’s air force commander just said.”
He added: “Anyone who threatens to destroy us will have to bear the responsibility” for that threat.
According to the IDF, the missile fired from Syria on Sunday was an Iranian-made medium-range model that was launched from the outskirts of Damascus at approximately three in the afternoon. Conflicting reports emerged about the intended target of the missile, with some politicians claiming it was the Hermon ski resort and the IDF saying its exact target was unclear.
The attack came shortly after the IDF allegedly conducted a number of rare daylight airstrikes on Damascus on Sunday.
The IDF said Monday it had placed troops on the Syrian frontier on high alert. The Hermon ski resort was closed to visitors, but no other special safety instructions were given to residents of the area.
Shortly after the Israeli strikes on Monday, Iran’s air force chief said the country’s military was ready to fight a war for “Israel’s disappearance.”
“We’re ready for the decisive war that will bring about Israel’s disappearance. Our armed forces are prepared for the day when Israel will be destroyed,” Brig. Gen. Aziz Nasirzadeh said, according to an Iranian news site.
Netanyahu spoke at the inauguration of the Ramon Airport, located some 18 kilometers (11 miles) north of the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat and the adjacent Jordanian port of Aqaba, and is meant to boost tourism to the nearby Red Sea and serve as an alternative to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.
Earlier, Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said that Israel’s early-morning raids on Monday against Iranian installations demonstrated that Jerusalem’s “red-line policy to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria is being upheld with full force.”
“The IDF attacks tonight against Iranian Quds Force targets are a clear message to [Quds Force commander] Qassem Souleimani and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard,” Katz said in a statement Monday morning.
Likud’s Absorption Minister Yoav Gallant, a retired IDF major general, vowed on Monday, “We will expel Iran from Syria. We won’t allow the establishment of an Iranian army in Syria and won’t allow the formation of another Hezbollah front on the Golan Heights.”
AFP contributed to this report.