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Friday, February 23, 2024

Iran prepared to ‘destroy Tel Aviv’ – President Raisi

The latest anti-Israel invective came amid heightened tensions between the Jewish state and the Islamic Republic

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned on Tuesday that any hostile move from Israel “will lead to the destruction of Haifa and Tel Aviv.” Speaking at an annual military parade, Raisi called on the US and other “extra-regional” forces to leave the Middle East for their own benefit.

Delivering his remarks as armored vehicles rolled by and fighter jets flew overhead, Raisi marked Iran’s annual Army Day by proclaiming that “the smallest hostile move” from the “Zionist regime” in Israel will “lead to the destruction of Haifa and Tel Aviv,” according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

Read more: Prospects for ending Yemen war as Saudi and Iran engage in peace talks

Iranian leaders often use Army Day to make bombastic threats against Israel and the US. Last year, Raisi issued a similar warning, saying that Iran’s armed forces would target “the center of the Zionist regime” if Israel made “the tiniest move against the nation of Iran.”

However, this year’s speech came amid higher-than-usual tensions between the two regional powers. Iran blamed Israel for drone attacks on a military plant in February, while Israel accused Iran of violating its airspace with an unmanned aircraft earlier this month. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly warned that Iran is on the verge of enriching weapons-grade uranium, declaring last month that a “horrible nuclear war” would ensue if Iran developed atomic weapons.

Tehran denies that it is seeking a nuclear weapon, and has reportedly rejected efforts by the US to talk it back into a deal where it would freeze enrichment in exchange for sanctions relief.

Read more: Saudi-Iran rapprochement

In Tuesday’s speech, Raisi singled out the US as a destabilizing force in the Middle East. “The extra-regional and American forces must leave the region as soon as possible, because it will be to the benefit of themselves and the region,” he said.

While Saudi Arabia is often a target of Tehran’s rhetoric, Raisi’s speech made no mention of Riyadh. The president did, however, say that Iran’s armed forces “warmly shake the hand of regional nations” willing to cooperate on issues of mutual security, likely a reference to the recent Chinese-brokered detente between the two countries.