By Rebekah Baker
Following reports of an Israeli strike on Iranian targets at Syria’s T4 airbase last Monday, Iran warned of Israel’s future destruction.
The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday that Iranian Army Ground Forces commander Brig.-Gen Kiumars Heidari said Iran’s military is “much more powerful than before” and warned that “the date has been set” for Israel’s destruction, according to official news agency Mehr.
An Israeli Defense Force official confirmed Monday that Israel was behind the attack on the Iranian air base.
The strike was reportedly part of Israel’s ongoing effort to prevent Iran from gaining a permanent position of influence within Syria’s military.
“Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over the growing Iranian entrenchment on its borders and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah, from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria, stressing that both are redlines for the Jewish state,” the Post reported.
The strike also followed an attempted attack from Iran on Feb. 10, “when an Iranian drone launched by a Revolutionary Guards Quds Force unit operating out of Syria’s T4 air base, east of Homs in central Syria, was shot down with a missile from an Israeli Apache helicopter that was following it after it penetrated Israeli airspace,” The New York Times reported.
IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said the drone’s flight path and Israel’s intelligence analysis indicated that its mission was “an act of sabotage in Israeli territory.”
“It was the first time we saw Iran do something against Israel — not by proxy,” a senior IDF official told the Times, adding that the strike on the T-4 airbase “was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people.”
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According to the Post, Iranian Gen. Heidari “taunted others in the region by saying that — unlike countries such as Saudi Arabia which imports its arms from the West — the armed forces of Iran were produced locally.”
Iranian Defense Minister Brig.- Gen. Amir Hatami had a similar message Sunday, saying that Iran had reached a point of “self-sufficiency” in producing, supplying and exporting Iranian-made weapons.
Iran’s military budget in 2017 was 15.9 billion, up almost 65 percent from 2014, the Post reported.
Besides Israel’s concern about Iran’s influence on Syria, it is also worried that the country is “trying to build advanced weapons factories in Lebanon in order to manufacture more accurate missiles which are GPS-guided and could hit targets within a 50 meter radius.”
In response to Heidari’s threat, a senior IDF official told Sky News in Arabic that “Israel will react strongly to any Iranian action from inside Syria.”
Israel’s strike on the Iranian targets were largely overshadowed by the United States’ strike on Syria on Friday, but as noted by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, tensions between Israel and Iran could lead to an even more dangerous conflict.
“Syria is going to explode. I know, you have heard that one before, but this time I mean really explode. Because the U.S., British and French attack on Syria to punish its regime for its vile use of chemical weapons — and Russia’s vow to respond — is actually just the second-most dangerous confrontation unfolding in that country,” Friedman wrote.
“Israel and Iran are now a hair-trigger away from going to the next level — and if that happens, the U.S. and Russia may find it difficult to stay out.”