Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Iran of supplying advanced weapons to Syria that pose a danger to Israel, saying it would be better to confront Tehran sooner rather than later.
Israel has repeatedly warned it will not tolerate a lasting Iranian military presence in neighbouring Syria, and is believed to have been behind recent air strikes on Syrian military bases that killed Iranian soldiers, prompting Tehran to vow revenge.
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement.
We are determined to block Iran's aggression against us even if this means a struggle. Better now than laterBenjamin Netanyahu
Mr Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday that Iran has delivered advanced weapons to Syria “in order to attack us both on the battlefield and on the home front”.
“We are determined to block Iran’s aggression against us even if this means a struggle. Better now than later,” he said. “We do not want escalation, but we are prepared for any scenario.”
Israel has long viewed Iran as its biggest threat because of Tehran’s nuclear activities, its support for armed groups across the region and its leaders’ frequent calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. In recent years, Iran has provided crucial military support to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Mr Netanyahu’s remarks came as President Donald Trump considers whether to withdraw the US from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
Mr Netanyahu was an outspoken opponent of the deal, which required Iran to limit its nuclear enrichment in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. Mr Netanyahu says the deal will not prevent Iran, Israel’s most bitter enemy, from reaching nuclear weapons capability.
Last week, Mr Netanyahu said a “half ton” of Iranian nuclear documents seized by Israeli intelligence revealed that Iran had lied about its past efforts to produce nuclear weapons. He did not provide any evidence that Iran has violated the 2015 nuclear deal, but said the documents prove Tehran cannot be trusted.
Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, but has never publicly disclosed its arsenal.
European countries, which have been pressing Mr Trump to stick with the deal, said Mr Netanyahu’s presentation only reinforced the importance of the agreement, which provides for inspections.