IDF chief warns Iran against attack, says retaliation plans already drawn up

Aviv Kohavi declares Israel will respond ‘forcefully’ to any assault, including by Iranian proxies

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks during an Israeli Navy ceremony in Haifa, on March 4, 2020. (Flash90)

By TOI STAFF21 December 2020, 7:46 pm  0IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks during an Israeli Navy ceremony in Haifa, on March 4, 2020. (Flash90)

Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Aviv Kohavi on Monday warned Iran against attacking Israel, saying that the Jewish state will retaliate forcefully against any aggression.

“Recently, we have heard increased threats from Iran against the State of Israel. If Iran and its partners, members of the radical axis [Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Palestinian terror groups], whether in the first circle of states or the second, carry out actions against Israel, they will discover their partnership to be very costly,” Kohavi said at a ceremony honoring exemplary soldiers.

“The IDF will forcefully attack anyone who takes part, from near or far, in activities against the State of Israel or Israeli targets. I am saying this plainly and am describing the situation as it is — the response and all the plans have been prepared and practiced,” he added.

Iran has threatened to attack Israel since the assassination of its top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in late November, in a raid blamed on the Jewish state.Military personnel stand near the flag-draped coffin of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an assassinated top nuclear scientist, during his funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran, November 30, 2020. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)

Last week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani claimed that Israel was behind the killing, which he described as an effort to start a war during the last days of US President Donald Trump’s administration.

Israel, long suspected of killing Iranian nuclear scientists over the last decade, has repeatedly declined to comment on the attack.

“Waging instability and war in the final days of the Trump administration was the main aim of the Zionist regime in the assassination,” Rouhani said.

Rouhani vowed to avenge the killing, and said that his country would not allow Israel to decide the “time or venue“ of any retaliatory action. He said Iran would not allow instability in the region.

Israel insists that Iran still maintains the ambition of developing nuclear weapons, pointing to Tehran’s ballistic missile program and research into other technologies. Iran long has maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Fakhrizadeh was named by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018 as the director of Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons project. When Netanyahu revealed then that Israel had removed from a warehouse in Tehran a vast archive of Iran’s own material detailing its nuclear weapons program, he said: “Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh.”Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands in front of a picture of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, whom he named as the head of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, April 30, 2018. (YouTube screenshot)

On Sunday, an Iran-linked hacking group claimed to have breached the Israeli Aerospace Industries’ computer systems, in the latest in a series of cyberattacks on Israeli firms.

The group, known as Pay2Key, revealed its alleged hack in a tweet.

“Knock Knock! Tonight is longer than longest night for @ILAerospaceIAI,” the group wrote cryptically.

The state-owned Israeli Aerospace Industries said it was looking into the matter.

The Israeli cyber security firm ClearSky, which released a report on Pay2Key three days before the alleged IAI hack, said the group was likely an offshoot of an Iranian hacking cooperative known as Fox Kitten.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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