A leading Iranian cleric said Friday that Tel Aviv and Haifa will be destroyed if Israel behaves “foolishly,” while also vowing Iran will ramp up missile development despite Western criticism. He spoke as thousands of Iranians marched in anti-Israel and anti-US protests nationwide.
“We will expand our missile capabilities despite Western pressure (to curb it)… to let Israel know that if it acts foolishly, Tel Aviv and Haifa will be totally destroyed,” Reuters translated Ahmad Khatami as saying during Friday prayers at Tehran University, broadcast on Iranian state television.
His comments came after the Israeli military said it destroyed a significant chunk of Iran’s military assets in Syria earlier this week in response to Iranian rocket fire on the Golan Heights.
Khatami also stressed that after US President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal — known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the other signatories could not be trusted to continue the deal alone.
“America cannot do a damn thing. They have always been after toppling of Iran’s regime and this exit is in line with that aim,” he said. “These European signatories also cannot be trusted … Iran’s enemies cannot be trusted,” Reuters reported.
Iranian state TV on Friday aired footage of protests against the US and Israel at rallies in Tehran and elsewhere after Friday prayers.
Thousands marched in the protests, carrying anti-US and anti-Israeli banners and posters.
The demonstrators mocked the US president by chanting, “Mr. Trump you cannot do a damn thing,” and, “We fight. We die. We don’t surrender,” Reuters said.
On Thursday morning, F-15 and F-16 fighter jets bombed over 50 Iranian targets throughout Syria in an extensive Israeli Air Force campaign, dubbed “Operation House of Cards,” to try and destroy Iran’s military presence in the country, the army said Thursday.
The IDF said the sorties came after Iran fired 20 missiles toward Israel just after midnight on Thursday morning. Four of the missiles were knocked down by the Iron Dome air defense system and the rest fell short of Israeli territory, according to the military.
The Israeli mission — the largest air campaign it carried out in Syria in over 40 years — was “very successful,” a senior air force officer said Thursday, but warned that Iranian forces in Syria are still believed to be in possession of surface-to-surface missiles that could be fired at Israel.
The army also published pictures Friday of what it said was an Iranian Quds Force compound in al-Kisweh, south of Damascus, and an “Iranian logistics compound” 10 kilometers northwest of the capital.
Iran denied the claim that it fired rockets at Israeli territory and insisted it does not maintain military bases in Syria.