Israel ‘more powerful’ than ever, says PM, responding to Iran threats

After Tehran warns Israel will ‘regret’ alleged raid on its base in Syria, Netanyahu says Jewish people will ‘defend ourselves against any threat’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Keren Hayesod Annual World Conference at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on April 16, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Keren Hayesod Annual World Conference at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on April 16, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday asserted that Israel was “more powerful” than ever, after Iran threatened to retaliate for an raid on an Iranian military in facility in Syria that killed 7 soldiers and that has been attributed to Israel.

“The founders of modern Zionism did not say the attacks on the Jewish people would cease once we establish a Jewish state, Netanyahu told the Keren Hayesod-UIA Annual World Conference in Jerusalem.

“They said that we could defend ourselves against those attacks. And that’s exactly what the State of Israel has done,” he said. “It’s restored the capacity of the Jewish people to defend ourselves, by ourselves, against any threat.

He continued: “And we are as powerful as we’ve [ever] been before. We’re economically successful as we’ve never been before. And we take our economic power and our military might and we weld them together to have unprecedented diplomatic flourishing of Israel’s relations around the world.”

Earlier on Monday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry publicly threatened to retaliate for last week’s deadly strike on one of its military installations in Syria. The pre-dawn attack last Monday has been widely attributed to Israel, and an unnamed Israeli military source confirmed responsibility to the New York Times, though the IDF Spokesman subsequently appeared to dispute this.

Tehran threatened to deliver a response to the alleged Israeli strike, saying it would come “at the right time” and that Israel would “regret” what it had done.

“The Zionist entity will sooner or later receive the necessary response and will regret its misdeeds,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told reporters.

“The Zionist regime should not be able to take action and be exempt from punishment,” Qasemi said, adding that “the Syrian and resistance forces will respond in a timely fashion and appropriately in the region.”

In an article headlined “The Real Next War in Syria: Iran vs. Israel,” Times columnist Thomas Friedman on Sunday quoted a senior Israeli military source as saying of last week’s strike on the T-4 Air Base in central Syria: “It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people.”

A photo released by Iranian media reportedly shows the T-4 air base in central Syria after a missile barrage attributed to Israel on April 9, 2018. (Iranian media)

The senior official further noted to Friedman that the strike on the base near Palmyra came after Iran launched an explosives-laden drone into Israeli airspace in February. The strike reportedly targeted Iran’s entire attack drone program at the base. The drone incident was “the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel — not by proxy,” the official said. “This opened a new period.”

Later Monday, however, Friedman updated his article with the following paragraph in parentheses, after he was contacted by the IDF Spokesman’s office: “After the story appeared, the Israeli Army’s spokesman’s office disputed the characterization and accuracy of the raid by my Israeli source, and emphasized that Israel maintains its policy to avoid commenting on media reports regarding the raid on the T4 airfield and other events. He would not comment further.”

It wasn’t entirely clear from the update whether the IDF was flatly denying the unnamed officer’s acknowledgement of Israeli responsibility for the strike. It also appeared contradictory, because it featured comments from the IDF Spokesman asserting that the IDF was not commenting on the issue.

The February drone incursion into Israel marked an unprecedented direct Iranian attack. On Friday, the Israeli military revealed that the drone had been carrying explosives, and was headed to an unspecified target in Israel, where it could have caused damage. Israel’s acknowledgement of the nature of the drone’s mission “brings the confrontation” between Israel and Iran “into the open” for the first time, Channel 10 noted Friday.

The remains of an Iranian drone that was shot down by the Israeli Air Force after it penetrated Israeli airspace on February 10, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel has refused to officially comment on last Monday’s attack, for which it has been blamed by Iran, Russia, and Syria. Two US officials were also quoted as saying that Israel had carried out the strike, adding that Washington was informed in advance.

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