Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday warned Israel’s enemies the Jewish state would not “compromise” on its security, telling Iran and the Hamas terrorist group to “take this into account and take it seriously.”
At a Memorial Day ceremony, Liberman also addressed what he described as a “fragile and explosive” security situation on both the northern and southern frontiers, saying “at any moment we may find ourselves in need of all the power and abilities of the IDF and its commanders.”
The comments come amid soaring tensions on Israel’s northern border as the IDF prepares for an expected Iranian attack to avenge the reported Israeli strike on Iranian forces in Syria last week, as well as increased friction in the south amid ongoing border protests and clashes on the Israel-Gaza border.
“We’re not looking for adventures, but when it comes to the security of the state of Israel and its citizens, we won’t compromise and we won’t blink. My advice to our neighbors – to the north and to the south: Take this into account and take it seriously,” Liberman said at the Kiryat Shaul Military Cemetery in Tel Aviv, during the official military Memorial Day ceremony commemorating Israel’s fallen soldiers.
Applauding the accomplishments of the state, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of its founding, the defense minister further signaled the army could face conflict at “any moment.”
“We have accomplished astounding things, which count as wonders and miracles in the annals of the nations of the world – but we still cannot put down our arms. Sadly, the threats that seek to harm us and to destroy the State of Israel haven’t disappeared, even today, 70 years after the War of Independence,” he said.
“Therefore, we need a strong and determined IDF, and the understanding that we live in a fragile and explosive reality, and that at any moment we may find ourselves in need of all the power and abilities of the IDF and its commanders,” the defense minister said.
Iranian officials have made increasingly bellicose remarks since the alleged Israeli airstrike on a Syrian base on April 9, which killed at least seven Iranian soldiers. Tehran has since been threatening to make the Jewish state “regret its misdeeds,” as Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman put it on Monday.
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 militarily if necessary.
Tensions rose again on Tuesday, as additional strikes were initially reported on two air bases in Syria, with the Syrian military claiming to have shot down incoming missiles. Later, the Syrian army clarified that no missiles had actually been fired, but claimed that its countermeasures were triggered by a joint Israeli-American cyberattack.
Israel’s defense establishment — the country’s various intelligence services and the military — believes an Iranian revenge attack would likely be carried out by the IRGC’s air force, with surface-to-surface missiles or armed drones, The Times of Israel has learned.
That would be a departure from previous clashes between Israel and Iran, in which Tehran’s reprisals were carried out through proxies, like the Hezbollah terrorist group, rather than by its own Revolutionary Guard Corps.
There was no indication of when such an attack might take place, though Independence Day festivities scheduled for Thursday may serve as a tempting target for Iran.
On Tuesday the IDF said it would not be sending its squadron of F-15 fighter jets to the “Red Flag” training exercise in Alaska next month, with reports suggesting the army believed it may need the fighters on hand in expectation of a military confrontation with Iranian forces in Syria in the coming weeks.
Israeli troops also remained on high alert along the Gaza border this week, with at least three Palestinians reportedly injured by Israeli fire early Wednesday morning east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. The Israel Defense Forces, in a statement, confirmed it targeted a group of five Palestinians who approached the border fence. At least one of the Gazans was armed, the army said.
The Hebrew-language Walla news website cited an unnamed army source as saying security forces had thwarted an attempt by the group to plant an explosive device along the border fence.
In his comments Wednesday, Liberman praised the families of the fallen soldiers and the apolitical nature of Memorial Day.
“Here, in this place, and in all the military cemeteries in Israel, there are no factions and no parties. Here there are no tribes or camps, but only one single camp, that of the people of Israel, who gave their lives for the independence of Israel, for its security, for its future,” he said. “Like them, who were not deterred in the face of danger and understood that there was no other way, in the same way we must ensure, in their memory and in their spirit, that we remain one people and one camp in facing the challenges that stand before the State of Israel.”
Liberman spoke after an attempt — thwarted by the High Court of Justice — to bar Palestinians from a joint Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.