Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tehran on Tuesday that Israel’s F-35 fighter jets can reach “anywhere in the Middle East,” following threats against Israel in recent weeks by senior Iranian officials.
“Lately, Iran has been threatening Israel with destruction,” Netanyahu said, standing in front of an F-35 Adir jet during a visit to the Nevatim Air Force Base in the south. “It should remember that these planes can reach every place in the Middle East, including Iran, and of course also Syria.”
The F-35 stealth jet is not believed to have an effective range to reach Iran unassisted, but it could conduct operations there with in-air refueling, a capability possessed by Israel’s air force.
Netanyahu visit to Nevatim included meetings with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, and the air force’s top command echelons.
Norkin last year said that Israel had used the fifth generation fighter jet in operations in the Middle East. At the time, Norkin did not specify in which countries the aircraft had been used.
Israel has long seen Iran as its greatest threat, while Iranian officials regularly threaten to destroy the Jewish state.
On July 1, a senior Iranian lawmaker said Israel would be destroyed rapidly if the United States attacked the Islamic Republic.
“If the US attacks us, only half an hour will remain of Israel’s lifespan,” said Mojtaba Zolnour, chairman of Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, in comments carried by the Mehr news agency.
Similarly, in a June 20 interview on Iraq’s Alnujaba TV, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) monitoring group and posted to social media Sunday, former Iranian defense minister Gen. Hossein Dehghan said Iran’s military could destroy US military bases in the region and annihilate Israel.
“Our missiles can totally obliterate those bases,” Dehghan said. “Israel knows that Iran will erase its entity and uproot it from existence in case of a war.”
Netanyahu has issued a series of statements against Iran in recent weeks.
They follow the Islamic Republic’s decision to begin breaching some commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and attacks in the Gulf that Israel and the United States blame on Iran.
On Sunday, Netanyahu called an announcement by Iran that it would exceed the uranium enrichment cap set by the troubled accord a “very dangerous step.” He urged European countries to sanction Iran in response.
On Monday, Iran breached the enrichment cap as it seeks to press other parties into keeping their side of the bargain under the nuclear deal.
Netanyahu opposed the accord and urged US President Donald Trump to withdraw from it, which he eventually did. Despite having opposed the deal, Netanyahu is now calling on European nations to enforce its parameters as he and the United States seek to further pressure Iran.
Israel has also carried out hundreds of strikes in neighboring Syria against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah military targets. It has vowed to keep Iran, which has backed Syrian President Bashar aAssad in his country’s civil war, from entrenching itself militarily there.