Israel Says Iran Will Be Destroyed If Attacked As Wargames Tests Massive Attack Scenario
By Azhar Masood
An Israeli government minister warned on Monday that Israel would respond to any Iranian attack by destroying that country, public radio reported. “An Iranian attack against Israel would trigger a tough reaction that would lead to the destruction of the Iranian nation,” National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said in remarks of rare virulence.
“Iranians are aware of our strength but continue to provoke us by arming their Syrian allies and Hezbollah,” he said during a meeting at his ministry. Ben-Eliezer, a member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s security cabinet, stressed however that the Iranians were unlikely to attack as “they understand the meaning of such an act.”
Last month, Defence Minister Ehud Barak told visiting US Vice President Dick Cheney that “no option” would be ruled out in Israel’s bid to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Israel, along with its ally the United States and other Western powers, accuses Iran of pursuing the development of a nuclear bomb under the guise of its civilian nuclear programme — a charge Tehran denies.
Israel considers Iran its top enemy following repeated calls by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the Jewish state to be wiped off the map. Ben-Eliezer also stressed that an ongoing five-day home front defence exercise was not meant to threaten Israel’s neighbours, but stressed that “the scenarios considered in the exercise could be reality tomorrow.”
He said Israel could one day find itself in a situation in which hundreds of rockets rain down on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. “Nowhere would be safe from Syrian and Hezbollah rockets,” Ben-Eliezer said. The scenario for Monday’s drill had Israel coming under simultaneous attack from Syria and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia in the north and from Palestinian militants in Gaza to the south.
The exercise, which started on Sunday, comes amid media reports of heightened tensions along Israel’s heavily guarded border with Syria and just days after Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora put his armed forces on alert.
Israeli ministers tested in massive attack scenario
Israeli ministers on Monday were to test their response to the scenario of simultaneous attacks from Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip as part of a major home front defence drill.
The five-day exercise, the largest in the country’s history, is being staged against the backdrop of increased tension on the northern border, prompting the government to reassure Syria and Lebanon there was no hidden agenda behind the manoeuvres.
The drill, which started on Sunday, simulates air and missile attacks on Israeli cities, and the use of non-conventional weapons by the attackers. As part of Monday’s simulation members of the security cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, will have to make decisions after being told of widespread attacks and high numbers of casualties.
Monday’s exercise has Israel coming under simultaneous attack from Syria and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia in the north and from Palestinian militants in Gaza to the south. The government will also test coordination of vital services, including food distribution centres, hospitals and postal services.
Over the next few days emergency sirens will sound across the country and schoolchildren will practise entering shelters and protected areas in the event of chemical and biological attacks on Israel. The prime minister and his staff will also train to work from an underground bomb shelter at the premier’s Jerusalem office, officials said.
Dubbed “Turning Point,” the exercise follows widespread criticism of Israel’s handling of the 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. It also comes after local media last week reported heightened tensions along Israel’s heavily guarded border with Syria and days after Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora put his armed forces on alert.
On Sunday, Olmert sought to reassure Syria and Lebanon that Israel did not want the drill to worsen tensions along its northern border. “The goal of the exercise is to check the authorities’ ability to carry out their duties in times of emergency and for preparing the home front for different scenarios,” Olmert told a weekly cabinet meeting.
“There is nothing else hidden behind it. All the reports on tension in the north can be moderated and cooled down. We have no secret plans” behind the exercises, he added. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has said the manoeuvres were primarily aimed at learning lessons from the Lebanon war, during which more than 4,000 rockets fired by the Hezbollah militia slammed into northern Israel.
The 34-day conflict ended under a UN-brokered ceasefire after more than 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed.
Iran nuclear talks due by mid-April: US
The US State Department said Monday that one of its diplomats will meet his counterparts from five other powers by mid-April to discuss next steps to make Iran halt its sensitive nuclear work. But State Department spokesman Sean McCormack could not give a date for the meeting of the envoys of the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia — the UN Security Council’s five veto-wielding permanent members — and Germany. “I can only narrow it down to mid-April. We’re going to wait, we’re going to let our hosts announce the meeting,” McCormack said without saying who will host the talks involving Daniel Fried, the US acting undersecretary of state for political affairs. The UN Security Council last month tightened sanctions on Iran for failing to heed repeated ultimatums to suspend uranium enrichment. Asked whether the meeting would discuss increasing incentives offered nearly two years ago, McCormack replied: “We’ll have more to say about it after the announcement of the meeting.” When pressed on the issue, he said: “They’re going to talk about the disincentive path, they’re going to talk about the incentive path, and the balance between those two.” Iran said on Saturday it would not make any concession in exchange for incentives offered by the West to halt sensitive atomic activities. The six members have pledged to expand a 2006 offer of economic incentives to Iran in return for a freeze on uranium enrichment. But Iran last month ruled out further talks with the six saying that concerns about its nuclear program should be dealt with exclusively by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. The United States and its European allies have led efforts to pressure Iran into freezing its disputed uranium enrichment work, a process that can be used both to make nuclear fuel and the core of an atomic bomb. Tehran insists its program is peaceful.
Iran is starting work to install 6,000 new uranium-enriching centrifuges at its nuclear plant in Natanz, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced on Tuesday, according to state media.
with additional input from agencies & Middle East Press