Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday warned the country’s enemies to “not test” Israel amid concerns that escalating tensions between the United States and Iran could result in an attack on the Jewish state.
The prime minister made his remarks during a visit to a large-scale Israel Defense Forces exercise in northern Israel.
“I hear our neighbors to the north, south and east threatening to destroy us. I say to our enemies: The IDF has an immense destructive power. Do not test us,” Netanyahu said following his visit.
There is growing concern among Israeli and Western intelligence officials that Iran could initiate action against Israel to escalate its feud with the United States and force Washington to the negotiation table, Haaretz reported Wednesday.
Intelligence analyses indicated that Iran is disappointed that it hasn’t succeeded so far in forcing the US to rethink the crippling sanctions it reimposed against the Islamic Republic last year when it withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal, the report said.
After threats and steps Tehran has taken so far to escalate tensions in the region, it could drag Israel into the crisis through one of its proxy organizations in Syria or Lebanon, including the Hezbollah terror group, the intelligence officials said.
On Sunday, the military launched the five-day, division-level drill, which included ground troops, fighter jets, helicopters and a variety of military vehicles, the army said.
The drill was held throughout the north of the country, simulating large-scale warfare. The military said the exercise was part of its annual training calendar.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu met with the soldiers and commanding officers taking part in the exercise.
“I am greatly impressed by the improvements to our preparedness, from the spirit of the soldiers and commanders and primarily from the IDF’s destructive force,” the prime minister, who is also the defense minister, said.
In addition to the exercise in the north, the Israeli Air Force is holding its own large-scale exercise simulating combat on multiple fronts, the army said Tuesday, with the air force’s F-35s taking part for the first time.
The drill, which also began Sunday and ends Wednesday, involves fighter jets, helicopters, cargo planes, drones, air defense units and ground support forces. It simulates simultaneous fighting in the Gaza Strip, Syria and Lebanon.
It includes scenarios involving an enemy armed with advanced technology, such as the Russian S-300 and S-400 missile defense systems, a home front under massive missile attacks, and challenges such as damaged runways and disabled IAF communications centers.
The drill is primarily focused on the northern arena, with threats posed by the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon and Iranian forces in Syria.
Forces were also being tested on their ability to carry out strategic bombings while minimizing harm to innocent people in the vicinity.
“We are training at very high intensity with a challenging, thinking enemy that possesses technology beyond what currently exists in the arena,” a senior air force official said.
The official said the new F-35s provided an added value of “lethality and multi-role capabilities…We did not have these capabilities before.”