A top Iranian military commander on Saturday warned Israel would pay a “heavy price” as Israeli military forces carried out strikes targeting a Tehran-backed terror group in the Gaza Strip, and Iran’s president said Gaza’s “resistance” would hasten the decline of the Jewish state.
Gen. Hossein Salami, head of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, met in Tehran with Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s general-secretary Ziad Nakhaleh, a day after Israel launched an operation in Gaza to address what officials said was an immediate threat by Islamic Jihad to civilians and soldiers.
In response to the Israeli strikes, Islamic Jihad fired repeated volleys of rockets at southern and central Israel.
“The Israelis will pay yet another heavy price for their recent crime,” Salami said in remarks reported by Iranian state television, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi condemned the Israeli operation, Fars News reported, asserting that “the Zionist regime once more showed its occupationist and aggressive nature to the world.”
He added that “the resistance of the people of Gaza will speed up the decline of this child-killing regime.”
Iran provides support to PIJ and other armed anti-Israel groups through the Quds Force, the IRGC’s overseas branch. Last year, Nakhaleh said his organization took “direct orders” from the Quds Force’s late commander Qassem Soleimani and that rockets provided by Iran were used to attack Israel.
Speaking Friday from Iran, where he is currently visiting, Nakhaleh warned that all Israeli towns — including Tel Aviv — could be struck by PIJ rockets and urged other terror factions in Hamas-ruled Gaza to join the fighting.
چهار تروریست در یک قاب
دیدار دبیرکل جهاد اسلامی، زیاد نخاله با فرمانده سپاه پاسداران در کنار تصویر خامنهای و قاسم سلیمانی pic.twitter.com/ERCEDYUHlf
— اسرائیل به فارسی (@IsraelPersian) August 6, 2022
The ongoing flare-up in Gaza kicked off Friday with Israeli strikes that killed a top Islamic Jihad military commander, who officials said was planning to attack civilians near the border following the arrest of PIJ’s West Bank leader earlier in the week.
On Saturday morning, the Israel Defense Forces said it was ready for a “week of fighting” against PIJ, with both sides continuing to launch attacks into the afternoon.
Separately this week, Salami warned Israel could face massive rocket fire from Lebanon in a conflict with Hezbollah, amid rising tensions between Jerusalem and the Tehran-backed terror group over a disputed maritime border.
“In Lebanon, tens of thousands, even more than one hundred thousand missiles, are ready to be fired to create a hell for the Zionists at the moment of making the divine predestination happen,” Salami was quoted as saying Thursday by the Tasnim news agency.
He threatened that any Israel “mistake” would prompt Hezbollah to launch a military offensive, according to the semi-official Fars news outlet.
Salami made the remarks at a funeral for several IRGC officers killed in Syria, where Iran and Hezbollah have fought on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad in that country’s civil war.
The thousands that gathered in Tehran’s streets for the funeral waved red flags to mark Ashura, a commemoration of the 7th-century death of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein, a revered figure in Shiite Islam. Chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” rang out from the crowds.
The IRGC chief’s comments follow recent threats by Hezbollah over Israeli natural gas extraction in a maritime region claimed by Lebanon, including warning that Israeli land and sea “targets” are within the range of the Shiite terror organization’s missiles. Israel has reportedly warned any Hezbollah action against the Karish offshore gas field would be met with a forceful military response.
Last month, Hezbollah dispatched several drones to Karish that were downed by the IDF.
Jerusalem and Beirut are engaged in US-mediated talks on resolving their maritime border dispute, which escalated in early June after Israel moved a production vessel near Karish. The American envoy brokering the talks expressed optimism for further progress after holding meetings in Israel and Lebanon this week.
According to a report Wednesday, security officials warned during a security cabinet meeting that Israel may be dragged into a conflict with Hezbollah if no deal is reached in the maritime border dispute.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.