Israeli officials want the Iranian government “overthrown,” according to the top Israeli diplomat in the United States.© Provided by Washington Examiner
“In the end, we would ultimately like to see [the government] overthrown and [for there to be] regime change,” Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan was quoted as telling Israel’s Army Radio this week.
A long-simmering conflict between Israel and Iran has spilled out of war-torn Syria into multiple domains in recent days, including an Iranian attack on an oil tanker that spurred Israeli officials to demand a joint international move to push the regime. Erdan’s reported comments coincided with a new uproar on the Israeli-Lebanon border, where dueling rocket attacks and airstrikes have raised the specter of a major clash in a theater where a conflict could prove devastating.
“This is a very dangerous situation, with escalatory actions seen on both sides over the past two days,” the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, said in a statement Friday. “UNIFIL is actively engaging with the parties through all formal and informal liaison and coordination mechanisms to prevent the situation from spiralling out of control.”
Lebanese Hezbollah claimed responsibility for firing 19 rockets toward Israel on Friday, the most dramatic show of force by the terrorist organization since the 2006 war in Lebanon. That round of rocket fire came in response to an Israeli strike Thursday.
The Israeli side retaliated against yet another round of rockets fired from Lebanon, although Hezbollah had not claimed responsibility for the fusillade.
“This is the terror group’s attempt to show that it controls the region in southern Lebanon after a rogue Palestinian faction fired rockets at Israel on Wednesday,” an Israeli army spokesman told reporters in Jerusalem. “We have no interest in intensifying the conflict or in starting a war, but we will not let the border area become an active front-line.”
Lebanon, home to Iran’s largest and best-armed proxy terrorist force, is a geopolitical powder keg. Iran reportedly has stockpiled more than 130,000 missiles in Lebanon, and any major conflict there could cause significant military and civilian losses for both sides. Accordingly, the avowed enemies have avoided fighting there, but the latest salvos suggest the seal between Lebanon and the battlegrounds in Syria is breaking.
“Recently, it became very painful for Iran and Hezbollah, especially when Hezbollah members started getting killed in Syria as a result of Israeli strikes,” the Foundation for Defense of Democracies research fellow Tony Badran told the Washington Examiner.
“Hezbollah started saying, ‘Well, you know what, you kill one of our guys from Syria, we’ll respond from Lebanon,'” he said. “They’re trying to use Lebanon — and Israel’s reluctance to strike in Lebanon for fear of a broader conflict — as a deterrent against Israel, including in Syria.”
Yet, Hezbollah emphasized their barrage targeted “open areas” rather than populated areas, in an apparent signal the conflict taken up by the Israeli military need not intensify.
However, Israeli and Iranian officials have been trading more direct threats in public due to the parallel violence in international waters.
“We would like to see actions that are much more determined from the international community against Iran,” Erdan, the Israeli ambassador, told Army Radio. “We hope the international community will draw this conclusion as soon as possible because we need to put an end to this murderousness.”