Iran fired multiple ballistic missiles Friday at the close of five days of military drills that generals said were a warning to Israel and included a mock strike on Israel’s nuclear facility.
“These exercises were designed to respond to threats made in recent days by the Zionist regime,” armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri told state television.
“Sixteen missiles aimed and annihilated the chosen target. In this exercise, part of the hundreds of Iranian missiles capable of destroying a country that dared to attack Iran were deployed,” he added.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps chief Major General Hossein Salami added: “The military exercise… is a serious warning to Zionist regime officials… Make the slightest mistake, we will cut off their hand.”
Iranian Revolutionary Guards forces finished the drill by blowing up a target set up to resemble Israel’s Dimona nuclear complex, Reuters reported. Iranian TV broadcast images of missiles striking the target structures and issued a threat to Israel.
“Through a simulation of the Dimona atomic facilities, the Revolutionary Guards successfully practiced attacking this critical center of the Zionist regime in its missile exercise,” Iran’s semi-official news agency Tasnim said.
איראן מאיימת לתקוף בטילים את הכור הגרעיני בדימונה – אם ישראל תתקוף את מתקני הגרעין שלה. בסיום התרגיל הצבאי של משמרות המהפכה, שידרה הטלוויזיה בטהראן צילומים המתעדים פגיעת טילים במטרה הדומה לכור בדרום@Yoav__Zehavi pic.twitter.com/YIKdJ23dMg
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) December 24, 2021
According to the IRNA news agency, the missiles were of the models Emad, Ghadr, Sejjil, Zalzal, Dezful and Zolfaghar and that their range is from 350 to 2000 kilometers (220 to 1250 miles).
The short-range and medium-range missiles, Iran has said, can reach Israel as well as US bases in the region.
Iranian officials said the missiles fired during the drill successfully hit one target at the same time as 10 drones simultaneously hit their targets. State TV showed missiles launching in the desert.
During the second day of the drill on Tuesday, Iran launched cruise missiles, too.
In a statement issued in London, the British Foreign Office condemned Iran’s use of ballistic missiles, saying it was a “threat to regional and international security.”
“The launch is a clear breach of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which requires that Iran not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons -– including launches using ballistic missile technology,” it quoted a spokesperson as saying.
The five-day annual exercise that began on Monday comes amid troubled talks in Vienna to revive Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Iran has accelerated its nuclear advances as negotiations to return to the accord struggle to make headway. The talks will resume on Monday.
Former president Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal and re-imposed crushing sanctions on Iran in 2018. Tehran has since started openly enriching uranium up to 60 percent purity — a short technical step from the 90% needed to make an atomic bomb.
Israel has long seen Iran’s nuclear program as a threat and seeks a harder line by the US and international community. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.
Israel is not a party to the Vienna talks but has threatened force if diplomacy fails, and the US has also said it is preparing “alternatives.” Earlier this month, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he notified US officials that he had instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for a strike against Iran.
A senior US official said earlier this month that Israeli and American military leaders are set to discuss possible military drills to practice destroying Iranian nuclear facilities in a potential worst-case scenario if nuclear talks fail.
Israel has reportedly approved a budget of some NIS 5 billion ($1.5 billion) to be used to prepare the military for a potential strike against Iran’s nuclear program. It includes funds for various types of aircraft, intelligence-gathering drones and unique armaments needed for such an attack, which would have to target heavily fortified underground sites.