JERUSALEM (AFP) — An Israeli government minister warned on Monday that Israel would respond to any Iranian attack by destroying that country, public radio reported.
"An Iranian attack against Israel would trigger a tough reaction that would lead to the destruction of the Iranian nation," National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said in remarks of rare virulence.
"Iranians are aware of our strength but continue to provoke us by arming their Syrian allies and Hezbollah," he said during a meeting at his ministry.
Ben-Eliezer, a member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's security cabinet, stressed however that the Iranians were unlikely to attack as "they understand the meaning of such an act".
Last month, Defence Minister Ehud Barak told visiting US Vice President Dick Cheney that "no option" would be ruled out in Israel's bid to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Israel, along with its ally the United States and other Western powers, accuses Iran of pursuing the development of a nuclear bomb under the guise of its civilian nuclear programme -- a charge Tehran denies.
Israel considers Iran its top enemy following repeated calls by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the Jewish state to be wiped off the map.
Ben-Eliezer also stressed that an ongoing five-day home front defence exercise was not meant to threaten Israel's neighbours, but stressed that "the scenarios considered in the exercise could be reality tomorrow".
He said Israel could one day find itself in a situation in which hundreds of rockets rain down on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
"Nowhere would be safe from Syrian and Hezbollah rockets," Ben-Eliezer said.
The scenario for Monday's drill had Israel coming under simultaneous attack from Syria and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia in the north and from Palestinian militants in Gaza to the south.
The exercise, which started on Sunday, comes amid media reports of heightened tensions along Israel's heavily guarded border with Syria and just days after Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora put his armed forces on alert.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »