A top Iranian commander said Saturday that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had given an order for Tehran-backed terror groups to destroy Haifa and Tel Aviv if “any foolishness is committed against Iran,” warning that the Islamic Republic has been working for years on developing the capabilities of its proxies in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.
“We teach the Resistance Front to make fishing rods, instead of providing fish, and Lebanon and Gaza possess the technology to manufacture missiles,” Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Aerospace Force told the state-run Al-Manar TV channel.
“All the missile capabilities of Gaza and Lebanon have been supported by Iran, and they are the front line for confrontation,” he said.
Noting that “the capabilities of the resistance axis” are much advanced from what they were ten years ago Hajizadeh said, “today, the Palestinians fire rockets instead of throwing stones.”
“We have a general order from the guide, Ali Khamenei, to level Haifa and Tel Aviv to the ground, in case any foolishness is committed against Iran, and we have worked over the past years to be able to do so,” he said.
Iran provides support to Hamas and more direct backing to Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, all of which are sworn to Israel’s destruction.
Haifa and Tel Aviv have been threatened in the past by both Iran and Hezbollah.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently suggested striking Haifa’s stores of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive fertilizer that fueled the deadly Beirut port blast in August that killed 193 people and wounded 6,500 others.
The comments came as the Israeli military is preparing for the possibility of a strike by Iran-backed militias in Iraq or Yemen, according to a Friday report. The Israel Defense Forces held discussions last week about possible attacks, including missile and drone strikes, from the Iraqi militias and Houthi groups in Yemen, the Kan public broadcaster reported.
Iran on Sunday marked one year since the death of General Qassem Soleimani in an American drone strike in Baghdad, amid fears in Washington that Tehran could retaliate for the killing on the anniversary.
US officials have expressed concern that Iran may be planning attacks against US-allied targets in neighboring Iraq or elsewhere in the region to coincide with the date. In recent weeks the US military has taken a range of steps designed to deter Iran, while publicly emphasizing that it is not planning, and has not been instructed, to take unprovoked action against Iran.
US President Donald Trump has warned Iran against any attack, and the US has flown strategic bombers over the Persian Gulf in a show of force meant to deter Iran from attacking American or allied targets in the Middle East. A US nuclear submarine crossed the Strait of Hormuz and an Israeli submarine reportedly openly crossed the Suez Canal in a show of force directed at Iran a few days earlier.
Iranian officials have issued a stream of threats against the US and Israel as the anniversary of Soleimani’s death approached, while accusing Trump of seeking a “pretext” for war.
The US killed Soleimani, who oversaw the Revolutionary Guard’s expeditionary Quds Force, and others in the January 3, 2020, strike near Baghdad International Airport. It came after months of incidents raising tensions between the two countries and ultimately saw Iran retaliate with a ballistic missile strike targeting American troops in Iraq.
Iran has also threatened to attack Israel since the assassination of its top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in late November, in a raid blamed on the Jewish state.
Israel has long been suspected of carrying out a series of targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists nearly a decade ago, in a bid to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.