Tue, 20 Aug 2019

An Israeli minister has boasted his country is the only one that "has been killing Iranians" in comments that come in the backdrop of rising tensions between Western powers and Iran in the Gulf.

"Israel is the only country in the world that has been killing Iranians for two years," Israel's Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said on Sunday in an interview with Israeli radio station, Kan Bet.

"We strike the Iranians hundreds of times in Syria. Sometimes we acknowledge it and sometimes foreign reports reveal it," he said.

WATCH | Iran releases video showing capture of British oil tanker

The minister was referring to hundreds of Israeli attacks in neighbouring Syria against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah military targets.

Hanegbi accused Iran, Israel's main enemy, of seeking to create "chaos" and "harm freedom of navigation".

Response

In response, Iran's state-run news outlet Press TV tweeted: "This is how Israelis are freely and proudly talking about killing Iranians! Just imagine what would happen if it was the other way around!"

When asked if he feared that Israel would not receive the backing of the US in case of a conflict with Iran, Hanegbi suggested Tehran would avoid such a scenario.

The minister added that the Iranians "are very restrained in their responses and it's not because they don't have abilities, but because they understand that Israel means business".

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke along similar lines last week during an interaction with the cadets of the National Security College.

"At the moment, the only army in the world to fight Iran is the Israeli army," he said.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu warned that Israeli fighter jets "can reach anywhere in the Middle East, including Iran".

In June, the Israeli PM had said: "Israel has acted hundreds of times to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, while it actively and openly calls and works for [Israel's] destruction."

The Israeli minister's remarks came amid the seizure of a British-flagged tanker by Iran on Friday in the Strait of Hormuz, escalating tensions between London and Tehran.

The UK-Iran spat has added to the ongoing tensions in the Gulf unleashed by US President Donald Trump's decision last year to withdraw from a landmark nuclear deal signed in 2015.

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