Israel is preparing offensive options against Iran in case they are needed, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in an interview with Channel 12 News on Sunday.
Tensions between Israel and Iran have escalated in recent weeks, following the assassination of a senior Iranian officer in Tehran last month which he blames on Israel, a number of other deaths of security and scientific personnel inside Iran, airstrikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria, threatening rhetoric from Iranian leaders, and Iran’s growing violations of nuclear agreements.
Those tensions have led Israel to urge its citizens in Turkey to leave immediately in recent days, fearing Iranian operatives plan to kill or abduct Israelis there. The warnings came amid unverified reports in the press that Israeli and Turkish intelligence services had together foiled several attacks planned by a wide network of Iranian operatives, nabbing some of the suspects.
Given what Israel described as an imminent and concrete threat of an Iranian attack on Israelis in Istanbul, Gantz said, “We are not in a position to personally protect every Israeli anywhere in the world.
“We are in contact with the relevant Turkish authorities, and we are of course mainly preparing offensive capabilities, if and when they are needed,” he said. “I suggest to the Iranians not to test these capabilities.”
Gantz’s statements followed similar remarks by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett earlier in the day, who warned Iran against attempts to orchestrate terror attacks against Israelis abroad, threatening that anyone would try to pay the price.
“We are currently witnessing Iranian attempts to attack Israelis in various locations overseas,” Bennett said at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.
“Our new rule: whoever sends, pays,” Bennett warned, according to an English-language statement of his remarks provided by his office. “We will continue to hit those who send the terrorists, and those who send those who send them.”
The Israeli security establishment acts to thwart such attempts before they can be carried out, Bennett said.
Noting that the government had asked Israelis to avoid unnecessary travel to Turkey, and in particular to Istanbul, Bennett said: “The danger is still great. I call on the citizens of Israel to show personal responsibility and protect themselves.