In what appeared to be a response to recent Iranian rhetoric directed against Israel, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said Wednesday that "whoever thinks he can eliminate Israel and try to harm our state will discover the deadly force of the IDF."

The IDF chief's comments came after numerous senior Iranian officials, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for Israel's destruction in the past month.

Speaking at a Golani Brigade rally, Gantz stated that "in recent days we have heard direct threats against Israel's security and the safety of its citizens. These threats display an erroneous estimation of our forces and our abilities."

Gantz said that in the face of the threats facing Israel, the IDF was "primed and ready along the country's borders."

Earlier on Wednesday, Iran's foreign minister downplayed increased speculation that Israel was planning to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

Ali Akbar Salehi said that Iran considers threats by Israel to bomb its nuclear installations more a propaganda drive than a genuine signal of imminent attack.

"It is our responsibility to take these threats seriously, but Israel is not in a position to do such a thing," said Salehi, according to the Iranian newspaper Entekhab.

"If they really wanted to take such a step, they would not make so much noise about it. This is more a psychological and propagandistic move."

Israel believes Tehran is seeking atomic weapons capability, something it says would put the existence of the Jewish state in peril, and has threatened to strike Iran if diplomatic efforts fail to stop its nuclear progress.

There has been an upsurge in rhetoric from Israeli politicians this month suggesting Israel might attack Iran ahead of the US presidential election in November.

Iran, which denies trying to develop a nuclear bomb, has said it could hit Israel and US bases in the region if it comes under attack.

"Our country is awake and alert," Salehi was quoted as saying. "We take any small threat seriously and will prepare ourselves to respond to any threat, but that does not mean that these threats are serious."

On Tuesday, Iran unveiled upgrades to some of its weapons systems, including what it called a more accurate short-range missile, and said it had started construction on a 200-hectare (544-acre) air defence facility.

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