The Israeli Defense Forces have been put on high alert in preparation for potential Islamist retaliation for the U.S. air strike that killed Iranian Quds Forces Major-General Qassem Soleimani.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short his energy summit in Greece to return home. He strongly defended the U.S. action while speaking to reporters on the airport tarmac in Athens. “Just as Israel has the right of self-defense, the United States has exactly the same right,” said Netanyahu. “Qassem Soleimani is responsible for the death of American citizens and many other innocent people. He was planning more such attacks. President Trump deserves all the credit for acting swiftly, forcefully and decisively,” said the Premier, underscoring that “Israel stands with the United States in its just struggle for peace, security, and self-defense.
Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett immediately convened a meeting of top security officials this morning for what a Ministry statement described as a “situational assessment.” Security is being tightened on all fronts, as many military battalions have been put on standby and some roads in the Golan Heights have been blocked by the IDF. The effect on the ground is noticeable. IDF Spokesman Avichay Adraee wrote on Twitter that the country’s sole ski resort on Mount Hermon in the north has been closed as a precaution, but that there were “no further instructions to the residents of the Golan Heights area and routine activities continue as normal.”
In a statement to TV7, Knesset Member and Blue and White Chairman Benny Gantz praised U.S. President Donald Trump “for his decision to assassinate Qassem Soleimani and for his bold leadership at large.” The former IDF Chief of Staff said, “This is the appropriate response to anyone responsible for the murder of countless innocent people and for undermining global stability.” Lt.-Gen. (Res.) Gantz concluded his remarks, saying “The message to the leaders of terrorism is strong and clear: you will be held accountable for your actions.“
Blue and White Co-Chairman Yair Lapid, also voiced support on Twitter, applauding the Trump Administration for killing those responsible for “murderous terrorist acts from Damascus to Buenos Aires.”
The Jewish State has long regarded Soleimani as a major threat. There is rising concern of potential Islamist retribution against Israel for the actions of its strongest ally, the U.S., from Iran’s allies and proxy militias – particularly Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah organization. Soleimani was believed responsible for Tehran’s drive to develop a precision-guided missile program for Hezbollah. He was also accused of plotting an intended terror attack against Israel by the Quds Force involving multiple drones from Syria, that was successfully thwarted by the IDF this past August.
Security is also being bolstered in southern Israel against possible attack by the Palestinian terror groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Earlier today, Hamas extended “its dearest condolences to the Iranian leadership and the people of Iran at the martyrdom of Major General Qassem Soleimani.” Spokesman Hazem Qassem vowed, “The Islamic resistance movement Hamas condemns the crime perpetrated by the United States of America, by assassinating the Iranian Major military Commander Qassem Soleimani – who had a prominent and manifest role to support the Palestinian issue and resistance.”
The Islamist-Palestinian spokesman urther asserted that, “This crime expresses the American debauchery in the region and a violation of the sovereignty of Arab countries. It is a way to stir discord and tension in the region to serve the interests of the Zionist enemy.”
Hamas official Bassem Naim threatened on Twitter that the assassination “opens the doors of the region to all possibilities, except calm & stability,” stressing that the “USA bears the responsibility for that.”