Iran is now a “legitimate target” for missile attacks, a senior Israeli minister said, as fears of an all-out war between the countries grow.
Israel's Economy Minister Nir Barkat told The Telegraph that Palestinians from the West Bank would never be allowed to work in the country again and imported foreign workers would take their place.
He also argued that the war against Hamas had not been aggressive enough.
Barkat, seen as the favorite to succeed Benjamin Netanyahu at the head of the ruling Likud party, said Israel has the means to continue the conflict and open a new front with Lebanon.
Western leaders are already worried about the possibility of the conflict spreading to Iran and Lebanon.
Nir Barkat, the favorite to succeed Benjamin Netanyahu as head of the ruling Likud party, said Israel has the means to continue the conflict and open a new front with Lebanon (file photo)
Iran conducts a military exercise in Nasr Abad, Isfahan, on October 27, 2023, amid rising tensions in the Middle East
People gather near the rubble after the Pakistani military attack on an Iranian village near Saravan in Iran's Sistan and Balochistan province on January 18
Barkat told the newspaper: “Iran is a legitimate target for Israel.” They won't get away with it. The head of the snake is Tehran.
“My recommendation is to adopt the strategy that President Kennedy used in the Cuban Missile Crisis.” What he essentially said then was that a missile from Cuba would be answered by a missile from Moscow.
“And we should clearly make sure that the Iranians understand that if we don’t sleep well at night, they can’t get away with using proxies against Israel and sleep well at night.”
“We believe them when they say they want to destroy Israel… we will not allow another Holocaust.”
After an evacuation in the north of the country, Israel is moving closer to an all-out war with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
Barkat argued that a second war was within Israel's capabilities, while “the threat of Hezbollah must be eliminated.”
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he and his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi agreed at a meeting on Wednesday on the need to avoid steps that could further threaten stability in the Middle East three months after the start of the Gaza war.
Turkey, which supports a two-state solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has sharply criticized Israel for its attacks on Gaza, called for an immediate ceasefire and supported legal action to have Israel charged with genocide.
Iran leads the so-called Axis of Resistance, a loose coalition that includes Hamas and armed Shiite Muslim groups in the region that have confronted Israel and its Western allies militarily. It has expressed support for Hamas.
At a news conference after meeting Raisi in Ankara, Erdogan said the two leaders discussed ending Israel's “inhumane” attacks on Gaza and the need to take steps toward a fair and lasting peace in the region.
“We agreed on the importance of refraining from steps that further endanger the security and stability of our region,” he said, adding that the two neighbors also agreed to continue cooperation against cross-border militant threats.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was photographed in Tehran earlier this month
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) listens to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a joint press conference in Turkey on Wednesday
In a sign of the widening conflict, the United States and Britain this month carried out strikes on Iran-backed Houthi targets in Yemen in response to attacks on ships in the Red Sea. Erdogan described the attacks as a disproportionate use of force.
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan also said last week he had spoken to his Iranian and Pakistani counterparts after the neighbors exchanged fire across the border and called for calm.
Despite its harsh rhetoric, Ankara continues to maintain trade relations with Israel, drawing criticism at home and in Iran.
Raisi accused the United States of supporting what he called Israel's crimes against Palestinians in Gaza and reiterated Tehran's call for Muslim countries to cut off their economic and political ties with the “Zionist regime.”
“What is happening in Palestine and Gaza is a crime against humanity … and the United States and the West support these crimes,” he said. “Severing economic and political ties with this regime can certainly lead to the Zionist regime ending its crimes.”
Turkey and Iran have typically had complicated relations and have disagreed over a variety of issues, most notably the Syrian civil war.
Ankara has backed rebels seeking to topple President Bashar al-Assad and carried out several incursions against militants in northern Syria, while Tehran backs its government. Turkey has recently taken steps to improve relations with Damascus.
Raisi had twice postponed his visit, originally planned for November, due to scheduling problems and attacks in the southeastern Iranian city of Kerman. On Wednesday, the two leaders chaired a meeting of a Turkish-Iranian business council and signed various agreements.
Meanwhile, Yemen's Houthis fired three missiles at two merchant vessels in the Red Sea on Wednesday in their latest attack on the commercially crucial waterway, the White House and Iran-backed rebels said.
This came after the Houthis vowed to continue their attacks despite repeated attacks against them by the US and Britain.
Yemen's Houthi supporters raise their rifles and shout slogans as they take part in a tribal rally and parade against U.S.-led airstrikes on sites in Yemen and to express solidarity with Palestinians on January 22
Houthi supporters demonstrate against US and British attacks in the Bani Hushaish area of Sanaa, Yemen, on January 22
Houthi supporters carry weapons and sing at a parade and demonstration against US and British attacks in the Bani Hushaish area of Sanaa, Yemen, on January 22
Houthi supporters carry weapons and Palestinian flags during a demonstration against US and British attacks in the Bani Hushaish area of Sanaa, Yemen, January 22
Yemen's Houthi supporters demonstrate and rally against U.S.-led airstrikes on sites near Sana'a, Yemen, on January 22
A Houthi supporter aimed a gun at a demonstration against US and British attacks in the Bani Hushaish area of Sanaa, Yemen, on January 22
One missile missed its target and a U.S. Navy destroyer shot down the other two, said John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council.
The Houthis' continued action “means that of course we must continue to do everything we can to protect this shipping,” he added.
U.S. Central Command said the missiles were fired “at the U.S.-flagged, owned and operated container ship M/V Maersk Detroit,” without mentioning a second target ship.
No injuries or damage to the ship were reported, CENTCOM added.
Fighting intensified on Wednesday in Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip, the focus of Israel's war against Hamas. The United Nations said nine people were killed in a tank shelling of one of its shelters, sparking international condemnation.
The United Nations criticized a “blatant disregard” for the rules of war, while the United States decried the attack on shelter for displaced Palestinians in the largest city in southern Gaza.
This came after the Israeli army said it had encircled Khan Yunis, the birthplace of Hamas' Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar, who is accused of being the mastermind of the October 7 attacks that sparked the war.
Footage released by the military showed Israeli soldiers taking part in urban fighting amid destroyed buildings in the city. During the Israeli bombings, large clouds of black smoke rose over Khan Yunis.
In the attack on the U.N. shelter housing 800 people, two tank shells hit the compound, killing nine people and wounding 75, said Thomas White, the Gaza chief of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees.
Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, condemned the attack and said the death toll was likely to rise.
“Once again, a blatant disregard for basic rules of war,” Lazzarini said on X, formerly Twitter, adding that the site had been clearly marked as a UN facility and its coordinates had been shared with Israeli authorities.
An image taken from Rafah shows smoke rising over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip during the Israeli bombardment on January 24
On January 24, an Israeli tank moves along the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel
Palestinians look at a mosque destroyed in an Israeli attack in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on January 24
Heavy rain floods the tents of Palestinian migrants in Deir al Balah, Gaza, on January 24
Palestinians displaced by Israel's air and ground offensive in the Gaza Strip take refuge near the border fence with Egypt in Rafah on January 24
Injured Palestinians, including children, are taken to al-Najjar Hospital for treatment after the Israeli attack on the Omar Ibn Abdul Aziz Mosque in Rafah, Gaza, on January 24
The United States regretted the attack. State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said: “Civilians must be protected and the protected nature of UN facilities must be respected.”
Meanwhile, heavy fighting broke out near hospitals in Khan Yunis, including Al-Aqsa, Nasser and Al-Amal, and Palestinians reportedly tried to flee, the United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA said.
“Due to the ongoing bombardment, no one can enter or exit Nasser Hospital,” OCHA said, citing medics who also reported that staff had been digging graves on the facility’s grounds “due to the large number of casualties expected.”
According to OCHA, there were reportedly about 18,000 people displaced from their homes at Nasser Hospital alone.
According to Gaza's Health Ministry, more than 25,400 people have been killed and another 63,000 injured in the enclave since the Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel when Gazan terrorists killed about 1,200 people and took about 250 hostage.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government is coming under increasing pressure to end the war, and the United Nations' top court is expected to deliver a landmark ruling on genocide allegations on Friday.
Domestic pressure intensified after 24 soldiers were killed on Monday in the army's deadliest day since it began its ground operations in Gaza.
Citing Israeli officials, The New York Times said 21 were killed in an operation to destroy part of a Palestinian neighborhood as part of a plan to create a “buffer zone” within the Gaza Strip along the Israeli border.
But in a speech to Israel's parliament on Wednesday, Netanyahu promised that the conflict would continue until Hamas's “aggression and evil” were destroyed.
“This is a war for our home,” he said.
“It must end, and it will end with the eradication of the aggression and evil of the new Nazis.”