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Israel ready to strike Iran, defence minister tells Saudi newspaper

Lieberman tells London-based Elaph his country will target Tehran if threatened by Iran
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman (AFP)

In a rare interview with the Saudi press published on Thursday, Israel’s hardline Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman claimed Israel would retaliate against Iran if the country ever targeted Tel Aviv.

“We will strike Tehran and demolish every military site Iran threatens Israel with in Syria, whatever the price,” Lieberman told the London-based Saudi newspaper Elaph.

He said Israel was not seeking a war but wanted to prevent Iran from establishing itself militarily in Syria.

Lieberman travelled to Washington on Wednesday for talks about Iran with the new US National Security Advisor John Bolton and Defence Secretary James Mattis.

Tensions with Iran have been at a height since February, when Israel responded to one of its fighter jets being shot down by hitting military sites in Syria.

Israel has repeatedly hit Iranian and Iran-backed targets in Syria in recent years, most recently earlier this month in Homs province's T4 base, where several Iranian troops were reportedly killed.

Lieberman also claimed the Iranian leadership is “living its final days” and that the potential withdrawal of the United States from the Iran nuclear deal next month could crash Iran’s economy.

The Elaph newspaper has gained attention publishing high-profile interviews that put across Israeli official positions to Arab readers.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported in November that an interview given to the paper by Israeli military chief Gadi Eisenkot was part of Israel’s attempts to build relationships with Gulf states.

Israel and Saudi Arabia have grown increasingly close since the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a development Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu frequently alludes to in boasts about growing friendship with Arab states.

Saudi Arabia has reportedly supported US President Donald Trump’s controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, despite most countries believing the city’s status should be decided through a peace deal between the two sides.

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