Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Iran to not to test his country's resolve as Tehran builds up its military presence in neighboring Syria.
"Our policy can be summed up in three words: aggression against aggression," Netanyahu said in a speech Wednesday on the eve of Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Referring to Iran, he added: "Because even today an extremist regime threatens us, threatening world peace. This regime explicitly declares that it intends to destroy us — the Jewish state."
Syria'salleged recent chemical attack on a rebel enclave near Damascus has been the recent focus in the U.S., prompting speculation that President Donald Trump would retaliate. But in Israel, evidence that Iran is entrenching just across its northeastern border has caused seriousworry.
Netanyahu compared engaging with Iran, whose fighters have helped Syrian President Bashar al-Assad recapture swaths of land from rebels in Syria, to pre-World War II negotiations with the Nazis.
Netanyahu also spoke Wedneday with Russian President Vladimir Putin — Syria's main backer. During the conversation, the prime minister reiterated that Israel would not allow a Iranian military buildup in Syria.
Israel has become increasingly alarmed at the growing influence of Iran and Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, particularly in Syria. Israel struck inside Syria more than 100 times since 2012, and its forces are widely believed to have bombed an air base in Syria Monday, which Iranian state media reported killed seven Iranian military personnel.
Israel also opposes the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement that curtailed Tehran's nuclear ambitions in exchange for a loosening of sanctions. Trump has vowed to renegotiate or ditch the pact
During his speech, Netanyahu said Iranians themselves people were not the enemy. Instead it is "the regime of tyranny that oppresses you. When this regime disappears from the world, and it will eventually disappear, our two ancient peoples — the Jews and the Persians — will again be able to live in cooperation and brotherhood."
Israel is not alone in ramping up the rhetoric.
The Iranian supreme leader's most senior adviser on foreign affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati, told al-Mayadeen television that "the crime by Israel in their attack against a Syrian air base will not be left without a response."
Paul Goldman reported from Tel Aviv, Israel, F. Brinley Bruton reported from London and Ali Arouzi from Tehran.