an escalation of threats

Israeli jets escort American B-52 bombers in apparent ‘show of force’ to Iran, Mar 8 2021

Two American B-52 bombers have performed a strategic fly-by, accompanied by Israeli fighter jets, in a show of force “pivotal in maintaining the security of Israeli and Middle Eastern skies,” according to the IDF. Israeli F-15 fighter jets escorted US bombers during part of the trip through the country’s airspace, the IDF confirmed in a tweet on Sunday, releasing some rare photos and video of the drill.

On other parts of the route, the US strategic bombers were escorted by Saudi and Qatari aircraft, according to CENTCOM, although no visuals of the escorts were made available.

According to flight-tracking data, the bombers flew out of Minot AFB in North Dakota in a second such deployment under Biden. Such flights were also common in the last months of Trump’s presidency. Just like the IDF, the US military also did not mention Iran directly, but said the fly-over was performed to “deter aggression” and reassure allies of the US’ “commitment to security in the region.”

Amid perpetually high tensions in the region, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz openly spoke about Tel Aviv constantly updating its plans for a potential strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, and even showed a map of potential targets in a recent interview with Fox News, which the channel decided to blur. In response to Gantz, Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami warned on Sunday that Tehran will “raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground” if Israel ever tries to attack the Islamic Republic.

“We’ll Level Tel Aviv”: Iran Responds To Israel ‘Preparing’ Strike Plans Against Nuclear Sites
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, Mar 7 2021

Iran has responded to Fox News interview from late last week wherein Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that Israel is currently updating its plans to strike Iran’s nuclear program and is prepared to act independently if the United States is not willing. The interview was unusually blunt even for Israel in terms of the defense chief openly stating war plans. Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami promptly fired back with a counterthreat on Sunday. He said Iran’s military will level Tel Aviv and Haifa should Israel do anything “out of desperation.” Hatami said as cited in Iranian state media via The Times of Israel:

Sometimes, the Zionist regime out of desperation makes big claims against the Islamic Republic of Iran to allegedly threaten it. It must know that if it does a damn thing, we will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground.

Hatami was addressing a military ceremony. He further assured his audience that Iran possesses all the power it needs to “maintain the stability of the country” and said the Islamic Republic can strike close to Israel also via “resistance groups,” which is no doubt a reference to Lebanese Hezbollah and militia groups that have been fighting in Syria. During Gantz’s Fox News statements two days ago, the defense chief had spelled out to the American correspondent:

If the world stops them before, it’s much the better. But if not, we must stand independently and we must defend ourselves by ourselves. The Iranian nuclear aspiration must be stopped.

PM Netanyahu has also issued similar warnings recently, however, Gantz’s words were the most specific and forceful thus far. He had even handed the Fox reporter what was purported to be a classified target list against Iranian assets that Israel prepared. Gantz had also touted that Israel stands ready to attack Hezbollah positions throughout Lebanon and Syria. The latter country has been on the receiving end of Israeli airstrikes on a near weekly basis for much of the past year. The defense minister claimed that Hezbollah has “hundreds of thousands” of missiles aimed at Israel and is bent on the Jewish state’s destruction.

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