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Iranian General Threatens Israel As 'Direct Confrontation' Looms

A picture taken early on January 21, 2019 shows Syrian air defense batteries responding to what the Syrian state media said were Israeli missiles targeting Damascus.

While the commander of Iranian army's air force says his troops "cannot wait to fight Israel and wipe it off the planet," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said "Iran will face the consequences of threatening to destroy Israel."

"We are wholeheartedly prepared to fight Israel," The Iranian Young Journalist Club website, a media outlet affiliated with Iran's state TV, quoted General Aziz Nasirzadeh as having said on Monday January 21.

He said "the next generation of Iranian soldiers are learning the skills for the doomsday when they will destroy Israel."

Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh, commander of Army's air force, undated.
Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh, commander of Army's air force, undated.

Nasirzadeh made the statement as Israeli officials have been expressing concern about Iran's military presence in Syria, while attacking Iranian targets in that country.

The general’s remarks proved Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrong. Zarif said recently that no Iranian official has ever said that Israel should be destroyed.

The latest round of Israeli attacks on Iranian targets in Syria took place Monday morning when Iran's extra-territorial force, the IRGC Qods Force, came under air attacks. Israel's defense chief Gadi Eizenkot said recently that Israel has launched "thousands of strikes" on Iranian positions in Syria since 2017.

Harretz newspaper wrote that Monday morning attacks destroyed Iranian arms depots and training sites in Syria.

Breaking the news about the attacks on Iranian positions in Syria, Netanyahu warned Iran against its anti-Israeli rhetoric.

Netanyahu said that Israeli attacks mainly targeted Iranian positions while Syrian forces fighting alongside Iranians also came under fire, Reuters reported.

"Whoever tries to hurt us – we hurt them. Whoever threatens to destroy us will bear the full responsibility," he said, adding that "We are acting against Iran and against the Syrian forces that abet the Iranian aggression," Haaretz quoted Netanyahu as saying.

Speaking while opening a new Israeli airport in the southern part of the country, Netanyahu responded to the Iranian commander's statement, and said that Iranian positions in Syria came under "heavy attacks" by Israeli air force after Iranian troops fired missiles into Israel Sunday evening.

He reiterated that Iranian missile attacks "will not remain unanswered as we will take measure against both Iranian and Syrian forces."

Netanyahu said that Israel is facing "direct confrontation by Iran in Syria," adding that "Assad's government will be in danger if he allows Iranians to act against Israel from Syria."

According to an Israeli spokesman, "Iranians had planned the missile attack on Israel several months ago and it was aimed at deterring further Israeli attack in Syria."

The spokesman added that Iranian forces launched Sunday's missile attack on Israel from an area near Damascus, tens of kilometres away from the border with Israel.

Meanwhile, The Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz as having said that "IDF forces attacked Syrian military targets and air defense batteries on Sunday and early Monday " In response to a missile launch by Iranian forces from Syria into Israeli territory which intended to hit the northern Golan Heights."

He said that Israel's policy has changed as it is now facing direct confrontation with Iran, adding the situation is moving fast toward an escalation. JP quoted the Israeli intelligence minister as having said that the attack was a "clear warning" to Iranians.

According to the Jerusalem Post, as opposed to previous strikes, the IDF took responsibility for the strikes in real time. This marks a change of policy which was also highlighted in a recent interview with Eizenkot.

During the past months Israel has repeatedly attacked Iranian positions in Israel and has made it clear that Tel Aviv cannot tolerate Iranian military presence in Syria, particularly at it borders.