TEHRAN, Iran – Iran will eliminate Israel if the Jewish state attacks the Persian Islamic nation, Iran's deputy army chief warned Tuesday in the latest Iranian contribution to the verbal exchanges between the two foes.
The remarks by Gen. Mohammad Reza Ashtiani were carried by the official IRNA news agency and followed a similar comment by Israel's Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who last week warned Iran that any attack on Israel would result in the "destruction of the Iranian nation."
Iran has in the past said that it has drawn up contingency plans to bomb Israel should the Jewish state attack its facilities.
"Should Israel take any action against Iran, we will eliminate Israel from the scene of the universe," the deputy army chief said in Tehran on Tuesday.
The threatening exchanges between Iran and Israel have intensified since 2005, when Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech that Israel will one day be "wiped off the map." The Iranian leader has also alleged that the Holocaust was a "myth."
Israel considers Iran a serious threat because of its nuclear program and its arsenal of long-range missiles, which can be fitted with nuclear warheads and are capable of striking the Jewish state.
Tehran is equipped with Shahab-3 missiles which have a range of up to 1,250 miles. Israel is about 625 miles west of Iran.
Israeli President Shimon Peres recently said he doesn't rule out a military strike to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but said Israel would not act on its own against Tehran's nuclear program.
Israel and the United States accuse Iran of using its nuclear program as a cover to build atomic weapons. Iran has denied the charges saying its nuclear program is geared merely toward generating electricity, not bomb making.
For its part, Israel is widely believed to have a large stockpile of nuclear weapons but follows a policy it calls "nuclear ambiguity," and has never acknowledged or denied having a nuclear weapons program.
Iranian military officials have warned Israel in recent years that Iran would destroy Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor if the Jewish state were to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.
Iran doesn't recognize Israel and calls it an "illegitimate entity."
The deputy army chief, Ashtiani, claimed Israel was "very vulnerable" and dismissed allegations that Iran was worried about Israeli maneuvers.
"Due to its special conditions, Israel is very vulnerable in the region," he said. "The aggressors will face a crushing response."