Israel is ready to strike Iran, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Thursday, as tensions between the two countries continue to mount following a deadly drone attack eight days ago against a civilian commercial ship in the Persian Gulf.
Speaking to Ynet, Gantz was asked by Attila Somfalvi if Jerusalem was ready to strike Tehran, to which he answered yes, saying that the Islamic Republic was a threat to the country, Middle East and the entire world.
Israel considers Iran’s nuclear program as the No. 1 concern, and although Tehran has always denied seeking nuclear weapons, it is known that they are continuing to develop the capabilities to produce a nuclear weapons arsenal, as well as ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
“Iran is an international and regional problem,” Gantz said. “The world witnessed one example on Friday,” the deadly attack against the Mercer Street tanker, which was carried out by a suicide drone. “This could happen to anyone.”
Gantz said that new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who took over from moderate Hassan Rouhani on Thursday, could lead Iran to even more extreme regional and security policies.
“I’m telling the world, pay attention,” said the defense minister. “It’s coming.”
In response to Gantz’s comment on striking Iran, the United Nations called on all parties to de-escalate the situation.
“What is important is for all of the parties who are involved to avoid any escalatory action or rhetoric that could make the tense situation worse,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesmen for UN Sec.-Gen. Antonio Guterres, in New York on Thursday.
Diplomatic action, however, has been stymied.
Israel wants the 15-member UNSC to hold a meeting on what it has referred to as Iranian maritime “terrorism,” and to condemn such attacks on intentional trade.
At issue in particular is the July 29 drone attack on the Mercer Street ship, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned petroleum product tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime. Two crewmen, a British and Romanian national, were killed in the attack.
The United States and United Kingdom, which believe that Iran was behind the drone attack, also want to see the UNSC convene.
Britain plans to raise the issue of Iranian maritime attacks at Friday’s closed door UNSC meeting. Other member states are also expected to speak out.
At present, no action can be taken because of expected opposition from Russia and China.
“There’s a lot of conflicting information,” deputy Russian UN Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy told reporters on Wednesday. “A ‘highly likely’ analysis, which we totally reject. We need to establish facts ... we don’t need to rush to any conclusions or actions without having proof of what has happened.”
As an example of the complex relationship many in the international community have with Iran, Dujarric welcomed the entry into office of Iran’s hard-line new president, Ebrahim Raisi, whose swearing-in ceremony was held earlier in the day.
“We look forward to working with the new president of Iran on a host of issues that are of interest to the UN and Iran,” Dujarric said.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN and the US Gilad Erdan tweeted about Raisi, calling him “the Butcher of Tehran” who was responsible for the “executions of as many as 30k political prisoners in 1988 - & he is PROUD of it. This man with blood on his hands will only create more violence & instability.”
Erdan also tweeted a photo from the ceremony of a European Union official sitting together with Hamas and Hezbollah officials.
"Hezbollah, Hamas & the EU in one photo at the inauguration of the Butcher of Tehran," Erdan stated. "How can they preach about human rights while sitting with representatives of terrorist orgs days after Iran’s murderous attack on a civilian ship & right before the UNSC discusses the issue?," he tweeted.
Gantz also warned that Israel has to continue to develop its abilities to cope with multiple fronts “for this is the future. Iran seeks to pose a multi-front challenge to Israel, and as such is building up its forces in Lebanon and Gaza, deploying militias in Syria and Iraq, and maintaining its supporters in Yemen. Iran is a global and regional problem and an Israeli challenge.”
Israel is dealing with the Iranian threat in an active manner against its proxies in Syria, Lebanon and Gaza.
“At the end of the day when a Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative in Gaza fires on Israel, he does that with the support of Iran,” said the defense minister. “We know this and are dealing with that on a number of levels, in various means, and in several different places,” he said, adding that Israel will continue to act.
Speaking to a group of diplomats on Wednesday from states in the UN Security Council, Gantz warned that Iran had “violated all JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] guidelines, and is only around 10 weeks from acquiring weapons-grade materials necessary for a nuclear weapon.
“Now is the time for deeds – words are not enough,” he warned. “It is time for diplomatic, economic, and even military deeds – otherwise the attacks will continue.In the aftermath of the border violence, United Nations Item Force Lebanon's Head of Mission and Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Stefano Del Col chaired a tripartite meeting with senior officers from the Lebanese Armed Forces and the IDF at a UN position in Ras Al Naqoura. Del Col called on Lebanon and Israel “to act with urgency” to de-escalate tensions and prevent breaches of the cessation of hostilities, the UNIFIL office reported.He urged the two countries to “use this tripartite forum" to "explore ways to reinforce security and stability along the Blue Line.”“In this period of regional volatility, more than ever, UNIFIL’s liaison and coordination role must be respected by all sides,” he said. “In the most imperfect times, this mechanism has served you well and now is the time to recommit to it, not allow the spoilers to have the better of us.”UNIFIL patrols the Israeli-Lebanese border and is charged with monitoring adherence to the cease fire that ended the Second Lebanon War, which was codified under UNSC Resolution 1701.The meeting focused on such violations, the UNIFIL office stated, noting that such meetings are held regularly.This one also comes in advance of the anticipated UNSC meeting at a the end of August for the annual renewal of annual of UNIFIL's mandate. Israel has pushed the UNSC to better empower UNIFIL to monitor violations, such as the Hezbollah construction of attack tunnels.Reuters contributed to this report.