Iran will suffer ‘crushing blow’ if it attacks Israel, Netanyahu warns

Source: Iran will suffer ‘crushing blow’ if it attacks Israel, Netanyahu warns | The Times of Israel

At same conference, US Ambassador Friedman says US has strongest army in the world, prays for ‘overwhelming’ victory over Tehran

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during press conference at the Orient Hotel in Jerusalem on January 1, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during press conference at the Orient Hotel in Jerusalem on January 1, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday warned Iran against attacking Israel in response to the American killing last week of senior military commander Qassem Soleimani.

“We’re standing steadfast against those who seek to kill us. We’re standing with determination and with force. Whoever tried to attack us will suffer a most crushing blow,” he declared at a conference in Jerusalem.

“Qassem Soleimani was responsible for the death of countless innocent people,” Netanyahu said. “He destabilized many countries. For decades, he sowed fear and misery and anguish. And he was planning much worse.

“President Trump should be congratulated for acting swiftly, boldly and resolutely against this terrorist-in-chief, who was the architect and driver of Iran’s campaign of terror throughout the Middle East and throughout the world,” he added.

Many leaders in the Middle East agree with him, the prime minister said. The region is split between radical Islamists and the moderate forces they are fighting, he went on. “Israel is the stable anchor in these turbulent waters.”

Netanyahu also reiterated Israel’s full support for the United States in its ongoing military confrontation with the Islamic Republic.

“It’s very important to say that Israel stands completely beside the United States,” he added. “America has no better friend than Israel, and Israel has no better friend than America.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits the prime minister’s Sukkah, during talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on October 18, 2019. At left is US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (Amos Ben Gershom / GPO)

Before the prime minister spoke, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman briefly addressed the Iranian attack on a US base in Iraq overnight Tuesday-Wednesday.

“We’re all watching closely the event in the regions,” he said at the conference at the Begin Center in Jerusalem, organized by the right-wing Kohelet Forum think tank.

“Initial assessments are positive. We pray that these reports are true,” he said.

“Our military is by far the strongest in the world and our cause is just,” Friedman added. “We pray to God that we will prevail overwhelmingly.”

A senior commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has warned that Tel Aviv could also be targeted, while a former head of the IRGC threatened to turn Israeli cities “to dust” if the US attacks targets in Iran.

Still, on Monday, Israeli security officials told the high-level security cabinet that Iran is unlikely to attack Israel in retaliation for the US airstrike that killed Soleimani in Iraq.

According to several officials who were present at the cabinet meeting and spoke to Hebrew media, several scenarios were presented regarding Iran’s possible response to the attack, with the security officials saying the chances of an attack on Israel were low.

“Israel was not involved in the killing and there’s no reason it will be dragged into it,” one senior official said.

Also on Monday, in the first public comments by a senior Israeli military official on Soleimani’s killing, IDF Southern Command head Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi distanced the Jewish state from the incident and said it was part of the ongoing struggle between Iran and the US for influence in Iraq.

Mourners attend a funeral ceremony for Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and his comrades, who were killed in Iraq in a US drone strike, in the city of Kerman, Iran, January 7, 2020 (Erfan Kouchari/Tasnim News Agency via AP)

“Soleimani hurt American interests and represented a significant danger to Americans in the region. We must look at the assassination as part of a fight between Iran and the United States over Iraq’s character. That is the story,” Halevi said.

“The assassination also has ramifications for us as Israelis, and we must follow it closely, but we aren’t the main story here — and it’s good that it happened far away,” he said.

Halevi said Israel was ready to launch a “very significant response” if the Islamic Republic’s retaliation for the hit included operations by its Palestinian allies such as Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The US embassy in Israel, however, released a travel advisory to its nationals in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, warning of the possibility of sudden rocket fire at the country.

One of Israel’s leading national security think tanks warned Monday there is a growing risk of large-scale war along Israel’s northern borders in the coming year, in part due to Iran’s increasing “determination and daring.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.


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