Some cities say they'll open bomb shelters

Netanyahu warns ‘we’ll harm those who harm us’ as Israel braces for Iranian response

Tehran sources tell Reuters that Tehran’s retaliation for killing of top IRGC commander in Syria will be designed to avoid escalation; IDF says ready ‘for a variety of scenarios’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a security cabinet meeting, April 4, 2024. (Channel 12 screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a security cabinet meeting, April 4, 2024. (Channel 12 screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Thursday to respond to efforts to harm Israelis, as the country geared up for a possible Iranian response to Israel’s alleged assassination of the top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander in Syria.

Speaking at a meeting of the security cabinet soon after his phone call with US President Joe Biden, Netanyahu said “Iran has been acting against us for years — directly and via proxies. And, therefore, Israel acts against Iran and its proxies — defensively and offensively.”

Netanyahu added: “We will know how to defend ourselves, and we will act according to the simple principle: that those who harm us or plan to harm us, we will harm.”

The possibility of Iran retaliating for Monday’s presumed Israeli airstrike on Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus has raised the specter of a wider war, though two Iranian sources told Reuters that Tehran’s response would be calibrated to avoid escalation.

An Israeli source told Channel 12 news that Israel would respond accordingly to any Iranian attack but added it appeared neither side wanted an escalation that could lead to an all-out war.

Since the October 7 attack by Gaza-ruling Hamas, Iran has avoided directly entering the fray, while supporting allies’ attacks on Israeli and US targets.

A billboard displays a portrait of slain Iranian Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi with a slogan in Hebrew saying, “You will be punished,” on April 3, 2024 at Palestine Square in Tehran. (Atta Kenare / AFP)

The Islamic Republic has several options. It could unleash its heavily armed proxies in Syria and Iraq on US forces, use Hezbollah to hit Israel directly or ramp up its uranium enrichment program. That would raise concern among the United States and its allies about Tehran’s potential to make a nuclear bomb, which the West has long sought to curb.

But many diplomats and analysts say Iran’s clerical elite does not want an all-out war with Israel or the US that might endanger its grip on power and would prefer to keep using proxies to carry out selective tactical attacks on its foes.

Quoting Israeli officials, the Walla news site reported that Israel has made it clear to the US that if Iran strikes from its territory, Israel would have no choice but to respond.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari in a press statement said Israel was taking every threat against it seriously, and that fighter jets were ready for “a variety of scenarios.”

“In the past six months, we have been in a multi-front war. We are on heightened alert in all the arenas. We are looking at the threats and foiling them all the time, on several fronts, and are at a high level of readiness for defense and offense. We are constantly carrying out assessments, and take seriously any statement and all enemies,” he said.

“We have increased our alertness in combat units, bolstered [air] defense systems, and we have planes prepared for defense, and ready for attack,” Hagari said.

He said the IDF was deployed “at all of the borders.”

“We must not be complacent, but at the same time, I need to emphasize that there is no change in the Home Front Command instructions,” Hagari continued.

“Your responsible behavior on the home front saves lives. My only recommendation is to be vigilant and stay tuned for updates,” he added.

Emergency services work at Iran’s consulate after it was hit by an alleged Israeli strike in Damascus, Syria, Monday, April 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Omar Sanadiki)

Several municipalities announced Thursday they would open bomb shelters, in preparation for a possible escalation.

Also Thursday, the Foreign Ministry denied reports in Hebrew media that Jerusalem was shuttering embassies around the world amid threats from Iran. According to Channel 12 news, diplomats at some embassies were also instructed to stay home Friday.

A Foreign Ministry spokesperson told The Times of Israel no embassies were evacuated and that no evacuations were currently planned.

An Israeli diplomat stationed abroad also denied the reports.

“I’m not aware of any evacuation plans,” the diplomat told the Times of Israel on condition of anonymity.

While Israel has not claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack, which killed Iran’s top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps general in Syria along with his deputy and five other IRGC officers, Tehran has blamed Jerusalem and vowed revenge. The IRGC is a US-designated terror group.

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