Economy Minister Nir Barkat has threatened that if the Iran-backed Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group opens a second front against Israel in the north, Israel will target Iranian leaders and “wipe them off the face of the earth.”
In an interview with the UK’s Mail on Sunday, Barkat, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, took a belligerent tone against Tehran, holding it responsible for any Hezbollah decision to expand the conflict.
“The plan of Iran is to attack Israel on all fronts. If we find they intend to target Israel, we will not just retaliate to those fronts, but we will go to the head of the snake, which is Iran,” Barkat said.
“The ayatollahs in Iran are not going to sleep [well] at night, we are going to make sure they pay a heavy price if, God forbid, they open the northern front,” he said.
Israel is currently waging war against the Hamas terror group in Gaza following its murderous assault on southern Israel on October 7, which killed more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians, and saw at least 222 taken hostage in Gaza.
Since then Hezbollah has traded fire with the IDF in limited skirmishes. Israel has evacuated tens of thousands of people from border communities in anticipation of a potential wider conflict.
“Lebanon and Hezbollah are going to pay a heavy price, similar to what Hamas is going to pay. But that’s not enough,” Barkat said, warning against further escalation.
“The very clear message is that we are going to be going after the heads of Iran as well. When will we do that? When we decide,” Barkat said. “Israel has a very clear message to our enemies. We are saying to them, look what’s happening in Gaza – you are going to get the same treatment if you attack us. We are going to wipe you off the face of the earth.”
The US has also warned Tehran against expanding the Israel-Hamas war into a regional conflict, but in more diplomatic terms.
“We are concerned at the possibility of Iranian proxies escalating their attacks against our own personnel, our own people,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on CBS News on Sunday. “We expect there is a likelihood of escalation.”
“No one should take advantage of this moment to escalate to further attacks on Israel or, for that matter, attacks on us, on our personnel.”
US troops have been attacked in Iraq and in Syria with drones and rockets in separate incidents this past week. A group of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq warned that US forces “must leave immediately” or their bases in Iraq and elsewhere in the region will continue to come under attack.
Blinken said the United States, which has sent two aircraft carrier groups to the eastern Mediterranean, was “taking every measure to make sure that we can defend them. And if necessary, respond decisively.”
Since October 7, Israel has pursued a relentless bombing campaign against Hamas in Gaza and has called up some 350,000 reserve troops in preparation for a planned ground offensive.
Israel says its offensive is aimed at destroying Hamas’s infrastructure, and has vowed to eliminate the entire terror group, which rules the Strip. It says it is targeting all areas where Hamas operates, while seeking to minimize civilian casualties.
Iran has celebrated the Hamas assault but denied taking part in the planning or training for the operation. It has also called on all Muslim nations to cooperate in confronting Israel.