Israel threatens ‘powerful response’ in Iran’s territory if it attacks from own soil

Ministers of defense and foreign affairs issue threat after Khamenei publicly vows to ‘punish’ Israel over Damascus strike that killed senior IRGC officers

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks to troops at an Iron Dome battery in northern Israel, April 10, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks to troops at an Iron Dome battery in northern Israel, April 10, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Wednesday both threatened that if Iran launches an attack from its own soil then Israel would strike back inside Iran, amid increasingly belligerent rhetoric between the two countries.

The warnings came after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Israel “must be punished and it shall be” for allegedly attacking an Iranian consular building in Syria’s Damascus, killing two generals among several Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officers. The IRGC is a US-designated terrorist organization.

Khamenei said that in bombing an embassy site, Israel “attacked our territory.”

Speaking to troops at an Iron Dome air defense system battery in northern Israel, Gallant said any attack on the country would face a strong defense, before a “powerful response in its territory.”

“In this war, we are being attacked from more than one front… from different directions. Any enemy that tries to attack us, will first of all be met with a strong defense,” Gallant said.

“But we will know how to react very quickly with a decisive offensive action against the territory of whoever attacks our territory, no matter where it is, in the entire Middle East,” he said.

“We have this ability,” Gallant continued, saying that a potential Israeli response would be “very, very effective, very powerful. One of the things we excel at over the years is that the enemy never knows what surprises we are preparing for it.”

Earlier, Katz posted in Hebrew to his official account on social media platform X that “If Iran attacks from its territory, Israel will react and attack in Iran.”

He then repeated the same warning in a Persian-language post and tagged Khamenei’s official X account.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz in Jerusalem, February 19, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Iran, which says it seeks to destroy the Jewish state, has developed rockets with a range that can hit anywhere in Israel and has boasted of its ability to strike.

In a major escalation of Israel’s war with regional adversaries, suspected Israeli warplanes bombed a building in the Syrian capital on April 1 in a strike that Iran said killed seven IRGC military advisers at a consulate site, one of whom was Iran’s top commander in Syria, Mohammad Reza Zahedi.

Khamenei said the strike, which leveled a five-story building adjacent to the Iranian embassy in Syria, had run roughshod over international agreements providing for the inviolability of diplomatic premises.

“The consulate and embassy offices in any country are the territory of that country. When they attack the consulate, it is as if they attacked our territory,” he said in a speech marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. “The evil regime made a mistake and must be punished and it shall be,” he added.

State TV broadcast Khamenei’s remarks live. He did not elaborate on how Iran would retaliate.

On Tuesday, the London-based Elaph News cited an anonymous “Western security official” as saying that Israel has been conducting air force drills in recent days that include preparing to target Iranian nuclear facilities and other key infrastructure should the Islamic Republic retaliate for the Damascus strike by attacking from its own territory.

Unnamed US intelligence sources told CNN, however, that Iran is unlikely to attack Israel directly out of fear of American and Israeli reprisal, and will instead urge its various proxies in the region to launch attacks on its behalf in the coming days.

An Iranian diplomatic source on Wednesday told the Lebanese Al-Akhbar outlet, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, that Iran has proposed to the US that it will refrain from hitting back at Israel “for the time being” if there is a ceasefire in Gaza and Israel does not follow through on its promised offensive against the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Iran-backed groups have entered the fray across the region amid the ongoing war between Israel and the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip. That has included rocket fire from Lebanon by the Hezbollah terror group.

IDF soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip in an undated handout photo published April 10, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

War erupted erupted on October 7 when Hamas led a devastating cross-border attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, amid numerous atrocities. Israel responded with a military campaign to destroy Hamas and free the 253 hostages who were abducted during the attack and taken to Gaza.

Negotiations via mediators for at least a temporary ceasefire fire in Gaza that would include the release of hostages have so far not yielded a deal.

The diplomatic source told Al-Akhbar that Iran and the US had exchanged messages following the Damascus strike via Oman, which for years has acted as a go-between for the two foes.

According to the source, Iran assessed that Israel was trying to extract itself from complications in the Gaza campaign by trying to pull the US into a direct conflict with Tehran. Iran asked the US not to get involved if it responded against Israel while the US called on Tehran to not exact its revenge by attacking US targets in the region, the source said.

Iran is seeking conditions aimed at “limiting the expansion of the scope of the war in the region” and to keep the US out of the conflict, said the source.

So far, there has been no response to the proposal, the source said.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers his sermon during Eid al-Fitr prayer ceremony marking the end of the Muslims holy fasting month of Ramadan, in Tehran, Iran, April 10, 2024. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Khamenei has led Iranian officials in a succession of promises to avenge the Damascus strike. Hezbollah has also vowed to respond as one of its members was reportedly also killed in the strike.

One of Khamenei’s senior advisers, Yahya Rahim Safavi, warned on Sunday that Israeli embassies were “no longer safe.”

The same day, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that Israel was ready to respond to any attack by the Islamic Republic, and had “completed preparations for a response against any scenario that would develop against Iran.”

Israel said last week it was strengthening its defenses and pausing leave for combat units following Iran’s retaliation threats.

Iran does not recognize Israel, and the two countries have fought a shadow war for years.

People gather near a destroyed building in Damascus, Syria, April 1, 2024. (SANA via AP)

Iran charges that Israel was behind a wave of sabotage attacks and assassinations targeting its nuclear program. Tehran insists the program is not intended to produce a weapon,

Israel, the US, and Western allies say that Iran is enriching uranium to levels of purity that have no civilian use and are bringing it to the threshold of producing a nuclear weapon.

The day after the Hamas October 7 assault, Iran’s proxy Hezbollah began attacking along the border with Israel saying it was acting in support of Gaza. The deadly violence has escalated, with Israel responding to the almost daily rocket fire by striking Hezbollah sites inside Lebanon and, allegedly, in Syria too. The spiraling fighting has raised concerns it could explode into a full-scale war that would be devastating for both Israel and Lebanon.

Smoke billows from the area of an Israeli air strike on the southern Lebanese village of Khiam near the border with Israel on April 8, 2024. (Rabih Daher / AFP)

Meanwhile, Iraqi groups have fired on US forces in Syria and Iraq and the Houthis of Yemen have targeted shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Khamenei criticized the West, particularly the US and Britain, for supporting Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza.

“It was expected they (would) prevent (Israel) in this disaster. They did not. They did not fulfill their duties, the Western governments,” he said.

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