Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran on Wednesday that Israel would “resoundingly” respond to an attack on Israel after Iranian missiles were fired Tuesday night on bases hosting US military in Iraq.
Iran’s missile attack came as a response to the killing in Bagdad on Friday by the US of powerful Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
On Sunday, in Tehran, in the midst of a verbal escalation, a senior Iranian official threatened to reduce Israeli cities to “dust” if Washington would respond to Iranian retaliation attacks for the killing of Soleimani.
On Wednesday, Benjamin Netanyahu described Qassem Soleimani as “chief terrorist” and “architect” of the “campaign of terror” in the Middle East, while expressing solidarity with the United States, during a statement at a conference in Jerusalem in the presence of the American Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
“Qassem Soleimani was responsible for the death of countless innocent people. He destabilized many countries. For decades, he sowed fear and misery and anguish and he was planning much worse,” Netanyahu said.
Israel accuses Qassem Soleimani, who headed the Quds force – an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps – of preparing attacks against Israel and of trying to convert Hezbollah rockets station in Southern Lebanon to precision missiles which could cause significant damage to its territory.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, who views Iran as Israel’s main enemy, also said on Wednesday that Arab countries have “growing and improved relations” with Israel.
Following the Iranian missile attack last night, its foreign minister Javad Zarif tweeted that the attack was a proportionate measure in self-defense under article 51 of the UN charter. He added that Iran does not seek escalation or war. It is not clear if the attack claimed any victims.
The European Commission is still expecting Zarif to come to Brussels to discuss how the situation can be de-escalated. At today’s press briefing in Brussels, the spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell declined to reply to a question if Iran could invoke article 51.
In a press statement this morning, Borrell said, “The latest rocket attacks on air bases in Iraq used by the U.S. and the coalition forces, among them European forces, are yet another example of escalation and increased confrontation. It is in no one’s interest to turn up the spiral of violence even further.”