Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, Qassem Seuleimani, to “check the state of Iranian bases that he is trying to establish in Syria” instead of interfering in Israel’s Parliamentary elections. Netanyahu’s televised statement came in response to a quote made by the Iranian General that was published in the Kuwaiti Al-Jarida daily, in which Suleimani voiced his belief that ‘an (Iranian) attack deep inside Israeli territory, ahead of the country’s elections in April, could bring about the downfall of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.’ The Israeli leader’s response came just several hours after he visited the IDF’s Shizafon military base, where he observed a combat exercise by officer-cadets of the IDF’s ground forces. Addressing the officer-cadets, Prime Minister Netanyahu pointed to the constant shift of reality pertaining to the challenges faced by the Jewish state. He said, “When I went to officers’ course, our enemies were Egypt, Syria of back then, and Jordan with Iraq’s backing. The Arab world engulfed us. In the meantime, it has changed. We are breaking through to the Arab and Muslim world, we even have covert and overt alliances.” Netanyahu reiterated Jerusalem’s position, in which it views the Islamic Republic of Iran as the main enemy of Israel – as it openly declares its intention to annihilate the Jewish state and actively seeks to do so. In his words, “Our main enemy is Iran. Iran declares its intention to annihilate us with nuclear weapons, which we are committed to foil, but Iran also masses forces around us. It wants to engulf us (today). They erected a frontal-fortress in Lebanon, by means of Hezbollah, they established a southern fortress in Gaza, in which they back Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. And now they aspire to build a third fortress on our border, adjacent to the Golan, through military entrenchment of Iran’s army in Syria. The Prime Minister followed-up by underscoring Jerusalem’s commitment to battle the challenges Iran poses to Israel, on all fronts, by saying “We are committed to battle all of these (challenges). We strike Syria’s army, or more accurately, Iran’s military in Syria. The IDF is the only military in the world that battles the Iranian army in Syria. We are thwarting the tunnels-weapon as part of our Defensive Shield operation in Lebanon and the tunnels-weapon by means of an underground barrier and other means in Gaza. We face on these three fronts Iran and its proxies.” Before leaving back to Jerusalem, Netanyahu conveyed a message to the Islamist organizations in Gaza: vowing to respond to any aggression from Gaza with force that will be both “lethal and painful.”
Netanyahu’s warning for the Islamist organizations in Gaza came as hundreds of Hamas’ militants held a funeral procession for one of its members who was killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli troops on the Israel-Gaza border – when an IDF tank bombarded a Hamas observation post in response to Palestinian sniper-fire that sought to kill an Israeli officer, yet miraculously only lightly wounded him, after the bullet failed to penetrate the officer’s helmet.