'I'm unimpressed,' says PM. 'I rely on the Israeli army'

PM says Zarif’s ‘moderate’ talk belied by the fact of Iran’s military aggression

Responding to Iranian FM Zarif, who said he doesn’t foresee war with Israel, Netanyahu says Iran is ‘advancing an army … with the stated aim of destroying Israel’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (center left) attended a toast with IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot (center Right) and the General Staff Forum on the occasion of the State of Israel's 70th Independence Day, on April 22, 2018. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (center left) attended a toast with IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot (center Right) and the General Staff Forum on the occasion of the State of Israel's 70th Independence Day, on April 22, 2018. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday made plain he did not believe the “moderate” remarks made by Iran’s foreign minister, and warned there was a “huge gap” between Mohammad Javad Zarif’s comments in a US TV interview and the military aggression of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which was “advancing an army against Israel.”

“I heard the remarks of the Iranian foreign minister, who accuses Israel of violating international law,” Netanyahu said at an Independence Day event in Tel Aviv with the IDF General Staff. “He is the foreign minister of a country that deploys armed drones to Israel and missiles to Saudi Arabia.”

“I also heard his moderate remarks, and there is a huge gap between his words and the actions of the Revolutionary Guards, who are advancing an army against Israel with the stated aim of destroying Israel,” Netanyahu said. “I’m unimpressed by his remarks.”

“I rely on this forum, on the IDF, that is ready for all possibilities and all scenarios,” said Netanyahu.

Earlier on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in an interview with CBS that he did not believe that Iran and Israel were headed for war.

“I do not believe that we are headed towards regional war, but I do believe that unfortunately, Israel has continued its violations with international law, hoping to be able to do it with impunity because of the US support and trying to find smokescreens to hide behind,” Zarif told “Face the Nation.”

“And I do not believe that the smokescreens work anymore,” he said.

Zarif went on to accuse Israel of escalating tensions in Syria by “routinely” violating its territory, referring to two recent alleged Israeli strikes on a regime military target used by the Revolutionary Guards to launch an explosives-laden drone inside Israeli territory earlier this year.

He was referring to an Israeli strike on the Tiyas airbase in Syria on February 10, after an Iranian operator working out of it flew an Iranian-made drone laden with explosives into Israeli territory.

A second alleged Israeli strike on the base, also known as T-4, on April 9, killed 14 people, including at least seven members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, of which one was the head of its drone program, Col. Mehdi Dehghan.

Iran, Syria, Russia, and some US officials have all said explicitly that Israel was responsible for the strike on Tiyas, also known as T-4. Israel has not commented.

“If they continue to violate territorial integrity of other states, there’ll be consequences. The easiest answer would be to stop — to stop these acts of aggression, to stop these incursions,” Zarif said in Sunday’s interview.

A photo released by Iranian media reportedly shows the T-4 air base in central Syria after a missile barrage attributed to Israel, on April 9, 2018. (Iranian media)

Zarif also said Syria’s shooting down the Israeli jet that carried out the February strike on Tiyas put an end to Israel’s “invincibility myth in our region.”

The Israeli leadership is convinced that Iran intends to avenge the T-4 base strike, Hadashot TV news said Sunday.

Ministers would have paid little heed to Zarif’s remarks particularly because they were delivered in English for a western audience, the TV report further said.

Israel sees Iran, which has vowed to destroy the Jewish state, as its central enemy in the region. Israeli officials have repeatedly stated that Israel will not allow Iran to entrench itself in Syria, marking it as a “red line” that it will fight for militarily if necessary.

Zarif’s comments come after senior Iranian officials threatened Israel with annihilation over the weekend.

“When the arrogant powers create a sanctuary for the Zionist regime to continue survival, we shouldn’t allow one day to be added to the ominous and illegitimate life of this regime,” the commander of Iran’s army, Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi, said at a ceremony in Tehran on Saturday, according to the Fars news agency.

“The army will move hand in hand with the IRGC so that the arrogant system will collapse and the Zionist regime will be annihilated,” General Mousavi said, referring to the Revolutionary Guards.

On Friday, the vice commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned Israel that its airbases are “within reach,” in remarks apparently reacting to Israel’s publication on Tuesday of a map showing five Tehran-controlled bases in Syria.

“Israel: Don’t trust in your airbases; they’re within reach,” Hossein Salami wrote on Twitter, also making similar comments in a fiery speech.

Israel, said Salami, was living “in the dragon’s mouth.” Both northern and western Israel were “in the range of our missiles,” he threatened in a speech given in Tehran.

“Wherever you are in the occupied land, you’ll be under fire from us, from east and west. You became arrogant. If there’s a war, the result will be your complete elimination,” he said. “Your soldiers and civilians will flee, and you won’t survive. And you’ll have nowhere to run, except to fall into the sea.”

As Iran stepped up it threats against Israel, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned Tehran over the weekend not to even consider an attack on the Jewish state, which he said has never been better prepared to counter Iran.

“I would suggest to all those on our northern border to think again about what they are doing,” Liberman said during a tour of the Gaza border area.

“It’s seriously not worth it for you to test the IDF, nor the State of Israel,” he said. “We are ready for every scenario. We are ready for a multi-front scenario and I don’t remember a time when we were so prepared and so ready, both the army and the people of Israel.”

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