Tel Aviv will be “leveled to the ground” if Israel attacks Iran, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not escape with his life, a senior official in the Islamic republic’s regime threatened.
His comments came in response to Netanyahu’s speech on Sunday at the Munich Security Conference, in which the prime minister brandished a piece of an Iranian drone downed in Israeli airspace and threatened direct military action against Iran.
“About Netanyahu’s unwise words, I should say that if they carry out the slightest unwise move against Iran, we will level Tel Aviv to the ground,” Mohsen Rezaei, secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council and former chief of the country’s Revolutionary Guards, told the Hezbollah-affiliated Arabic-language al-Manar TV channel Monday.
Adding a personal threat to the Israeli leader’s life, Rezaei added that Tehran “will not give Netanyahu any opportunity to flee,” Fars News reported.
Netanyahu singled out Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in his speech at the security conference, as he lifted up a piece of the drone’s wreckage.
“Mr. Zarif, do you recognize this? You should, it’s yours. You can take back with you a message to the tyrants of Tehran — do not test Israel’s resolve!” proclaimed Netanyahu to the audience, which included Zarif.
The drone, which entered northern Israel from Syria near the Jordan border on February 10, was shot down by an Israeli attack helicopter. In response to the incursion, Israeli jets attacked the mobile command center from which it was operated, the army said.
During the reprisal raid, one of the eight Israeli F-16 fighter jets that took part in the operation was apparently hit by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile and crashed. The Israeli Air Force then conducted a second round of airstrikes, destroying between a third and half of Syria’s air defenses, according to IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.
The flareup on the northern border marked the first direct confrontation between the Israeli air force and the Iranian regime on Israeli territory. Israel has warned of growing Iranian entrenchment in neighboring Syria and has said it will not abide an Iranian military presence on its borders.
“Israel will not allow Iran’s regime to put a noose of terror around our neck,” Netanyahu said during his speech. “We will act without hesitation to defend ourselves. And we will act if necessary not just against Iran’s proxies that are attacking us, but against Iran itself.”
Dismissing Netanyahu’s address as a “theatrical move and a childish game,” Rezaei claimed that “US and Israeli leaders don’t know Iran and don’t understand the power of resistance, and therefore they continuously face defeat.
“Today, the situation of the US and Israel indicates their fear of the Zionist regime’s collapse and of the US’s decline,” he added.
The comment echoed Zarif’s response to Netanyahu in Munich, downplaying the drone stunt as a “cartoonish circus” and saying it “doesn’t deserve the dignity of a response.”
Israel has been warning for years that Iran is seeking to entrench itself militarily in Syria. According to Israeli political and military assessments, Tehran, which has shored up dictator Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war, has been working to create air and naval bases in Syria, from which it can arm the Lebanon-based terror organization Hezbollah and other Shiite groups, as well as carry out attacks of its own against the Jewish state.
On Monday, a senior IDF general warned that the chances of war were higher than ever for 2018 in light of the battlefield victories in the Syrian civil war by Assad and his allies Iran and Hezbollah.
“The year 2018 has the potential for escalation [of military conflict], not necessarily because either side wants to initiate it, but because of a gradual deterioration. This has led us to raise the level of preparedness,” Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, head of IDF Operations, told Army Radio in a rare interview.