Iran said Tuesday it has sent a warning to Israel through the United States over the recent killing of an Iranian general in an alleged Israeli airstrike, though Washington quickly denied conveying any such message.
The report came as Israel’s Golan Heights came under rocket attack from Syria, over a week after several Hezbollah and Iranian operatives were killed in the airstrike in Syria.
“We told the Americans that the leaders of the Zionist regime should await the consequences of their act,” Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was quoted by the official IRNA as saying.
He added, “The Zionist regime has crossed our red lines.”
Iranian General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi, a senior commander in the Revolutionary Guard, was killed along with six Lebanese Hezbollah fighters in a January 18 airstrike in the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan Heights.
Both Iran and Hezbollah blamed Israel for the strike and vowed to respond; the Israeli government refused to comment.
Amirabdollahian said Iran delivered the message to US officials via diplomatic channels. He did not elaborate.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki would not comment on private diplomatic talks with Iran, beyond saying that no threat to Israel was delivered in the latest round nuclear talks between US and Iranian officials.
“We absolutely condemn any such threats, that come in any form,” Psaki told reporters.
There was no official comment in Israel over the Iranian report.
Amirabdollahian’s remarks came during a commemoration ceremony in Tehran for the slain general and the Hezbollah fighters. In the same ceremony, General Hossein Salami, acting commander of the Guard, said Iran will retaliate soon.
“We tell [Israel] to await retaliation, but we will decide about its timing, place and the strength,” he said, according to the IRNA report.
Allahdadi was one of the highest ranking Iranian officers known to have been killed abroad in decades.
On Tuesday afternoon, two rockets slammed into open Israeli territory in what was widely viewed as retaliation for the airstrike. Israel responded to the rockets by shooting 20 shells into Syria.
The Israeli military has been on high alert along the northern border since the airstrike, fearing retaliatory action from Hezbollah or its patron in Tehran.
At the same time Israeli leaders have warned that Hezbollah, Lebanon and Syria will pay a price for any attacks against Israel.
“They who play with fire – will be hit with fire,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.
On Monday, Arabic daily al-Hayat reported that Israel had sent a message to Hezbollah via foreign diplomats warning against attacking Israeli or Jewish interests abroad.
Iran and the US cut diplomatic ties after militant Iranian students stormed the US embassy in Tehran during the 1979 revolution and held a group of American diplomats for 444 days.
The two nations normally exchange diplomatic messages through the Swiss embassy, which looks after US interests in Iran. But diplomats from both countries also meet directly on other occasions — such as the current negotiations to limit the scope of the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for easing harsh international sanctions against Tehran.
Also on Tuesday, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan stressed that his country fully supported Hezbollah and added that Tehran would aim to heavily arm Palestinians in the West Bank, the Iranian Fars news site reported.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s position on the Zionist regime is unchangeable, and given the fact that the resistance stream is standing against the Zionists and the terrorist and Takfiri groups, we will make our utmost efforts to support and strengthen Hezbollah and the resistance of the Lebanese people,” Dehqan told reporters in Tehran on Tuesday.
“The constant and general policy of the Islamic Republic is arming the West Bank and strengthening the resistance stream and Hezbollah forces to confront the Zionists’ usurping and occupying regime,” Dehqan said.