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As Gulf tensions rise, Israel's Netanyahu warns 'enemies'

Thursday June 20 2019

Israeli soldiers gather around Merkava tanks

Israeli soldiers gather around Merkava tanks stationed along the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on November 13 2018. PHOTO | MENAHEM KAHANA | AFP 

AFP
By AFP
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JERUSALEM,

With tensions rising between Israel's ally the US and its arch-foe Iran, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the Jewish state's enemies not to test it Wednesday, his office said.

"I hear our neighbours from the north, south and east threatening our destruction," Netanyahu said in a statement released by his office after he observed a large-scale military exercise in the north of the country.

"I say to our enemies: The Israeli army has very great destructive power. Don't test us."

Across Israel's northern borders Hezbollah — backed by Iran — has its power base in Lebanon and a presence in Syria, where Iran also has a presence.

To the south is the Gaza Strip, whose Islamist rulers Hamas also enjoy support from the Islamic republic.

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SECURITY MEETINGS

Israeli public radio said that Netanyahu convened his security cabinet for a meeting that lasted close to four hours "in the shadow of the tension in the Persian Gulf."

The radio said that it was the second time in a week the senior ministers had met, after a session on Sunday.

Israeli news site Walla! said the ministers also discussed Iran's announcement Monday that from June 27 it would break the limit on the size of its uranium stockpile set by a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Netanyahu's office did not immediately confirm or deny that a security cabinet meeting took place on Wednesday.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have grown since the US last year unilaterally quit the 2015 nuclear deal and re-imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran.

The US has since bolstered its military presence in the Middle East and blacklisted Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation.

The United States has blamed Iran for last week's attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, releasing images and a grainy video it alleges shows Iranians on a patrol boat removing an unexploded limpet mine attached to one of the tankers.

Iran strongly denies the accusations and has hinted that Washington was responsible for the attacks.