TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Monday predicted Hezbollah would destroy Israel, in a new verbal onslaught against the Jewish state after the murder of a top commander of Lebanon’s Shiite militant group.
“In the near future, we will witness the destruction of Israel, the aggressor, this cancerous microbe Israel, at the able hands of the soldiers of the community of Hezbollah,” the ideological force’s commander, Mohammad Ali Jafari, was quoted by the Fars news agency as saying.
Jafari’s comments came in a condolence message to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah after the murder last week in Damascus of top commander Imad Mughnieh, who has been blamed for a string of anti militant attacks on US and Jewish intrests.
“With the martyrdom of this true Muslim, the intentions of all revolutionary and combatant Muslims, especially the comrades of this dear martyr, will without doubt become firmer against the Zionist regime,” Jafari said.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already blamed Israel for killing Mughnieh, hailing him as a “great” man whose his death would serve to increase resistance against the Jewish state.
In a sign of Iran’s respect for Mughnieh, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki attended his funeral in the Shiite suburbs of Beirut on Thursday and gave a speech.
The Islamic republic has a longstanding policy of non-recognition of Israel but its rhetoric against the Jewish state has sharpened during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Ahmadinejad has provoked international outrage by repeatedly predicting that Israel is doomed to disappear. He also courted more controversy by playing down the scale of the Holocaust.
Iran insists its position is in no way anti-Semitic but anti-Zionist, pointing to the continued existence in the country of the largest Jewish community in the Middle East after Israel.
Mughnieh, who was killed in a car bombing in Damascus on Tuesday, was suspected of masterminding the abduction of Western hostages in Lebanon in the 1980s and of the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people.
He was also linked to the bombing of the US marine barracks at Beirut airport in 1983, in which 241 American servicemen died and the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in 1985, in which a US navy diver was killed.
Israel, while welcoming the death of Mughnieh, has denied any link to his murder. Meanwhile, the US intelligence chief has publicly suggested that internal elements in Syria or even Hezbollah could be to blame.
“There’s some evidence that it may have been internal Hezbollah. It may have been Syria. We don’t know yet, and we’re trying to sort that out,” Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell told Fox News.
The Syrian pro-government Al-Watan newspaper reported on Sunday that the authorities have detained Arab suspects for questioning in connection with the murder.
The events come amid growing US frustration with Iran’s activities in Shiite majority Iraq and in Lebanon which has a substantial Shiite community.
The United States accuses Iran, along with its regional ally Syria, of arming and financing Hezbollah, as well as working to destabilise Lebanon in its current political crisis.
Overwhelmingly Shiite Iran jubilantly cheered Hezbollah’s resistance against Israel in the 2006 war but insists it only gives the Lebanese group political support and not military aid.
Washington also accuses Tehran of being a leading sponsor of terror and developing technology that could be used to make nuclear weapons, another allegation that Iran vehemently denies.
“We are not harbouring any illusions about the Tehran regime’s true intentions nor its extremist agenda,” commented Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman Mark Regev.