(May 8, 2018 / Israel Hayom) The Israel Defense Forces marked its 70th anniversary on Monday amid heightened tensions in northern Israel and along the Gaza border.
Top military and government officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, spoke at the ceremony held at Latrun in central Israel.
While most of the speakers refrained from directly mentioning Iran, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot told the audience: “The volatility in various areas, our enemies’ attempts to gain power, and the Iranian attempts to deepen its foothold near our borders all demand initiative and determination on our part to bolster readiness for any scenario.”
Netanyahu did not mention Iran specifically in his speech, but issued a strong warning to Israel’s enemies.
“Whoever hurts us, we will hurt them,” he said. “The enemies who threaten us with destruction should know that they will encounter an iron wall. They cannot overcome us, and they are putting themselves in grave danger. Our steel fist is clenched and ready.”
Lieberman also touched on the mounting tensions between Israel and Iran, chiefly due to Iran’s growing presence in bordering Syria, saying that Israel “is not interested in escalation, but our role is to be ready for any scenario.”
Meanwhile, the IDF is on high alert in northern Israel in preparation for possible Iranian-instigated surface or air attacks in response to a series of strikes on Iranian targets in Syria that Iran attributes to Israel.
A senior IDF official said on Monday evening that the Iranians do not want to fight a war with Israel, and so will likely look for ways of retaliating without sparking a full-scale conflict.
Israeli defense officials believe that Iran has several options for mounting a limited response, including firing missiles at IDF troops with the goal of scoring casualties or having Hezbollah or other Shi’ite militias carry out a limited action to try to breach Israel’s northern borders with Syria or Lebanon, and carry out terrorist attacks inside Israel.
Meanwhile, residents of northern Israel are continuing their daily routines. Neither the Golan Regional Council nor the Katzrin Regional Council has issued any special instructions for residents.
Shefi Mor, tourism director for Kibbutz Merom Golan, said: “It still hasn’t started. I’m getting ready, that’s for sure. We are aware of the defense preparations, but we haven’t gotten any special instructions or calls about [reservation] cancellations.”
Tourism remained steady at Kibbutz El Rom on the northern Golan Heights, although some residents noted that the civil war in Syria, which has encroached on Israel’s northern border, has prompted an unusual IDF presence.
“There are concerns, but things are absolutely routine here. We feel that we have someone to depend on—that the IDF is ready, alert and prepared,” one resident said. “We’re just waiting for orders.”