Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday hit back at Iranian President Hassan Rohani after the latter called Israel a "cancerous tumor" established by Western countries to advance their interests in the Middle East.
Reiterating his agenda that world powers ought to step up the fight against Tehran, the premier stated that "Rohani's slander, which calls for the destruction of Israel, proves yet again why the nations of the world need to join in the sanctions against the Iranian terrorist regime which threatens them as well."
"Israel knows very well how to defend itself from the murderous Iranian regime," Netanyahu added.
Addressing an annual Islamic Unity Conference on Saturday, Rohani said that "one of the ominous results of World War II was the formation of a cancerous tumor in the region." He went on to refer to Israel as a "fake regime" set up by Western countries.
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Iran's leaders frequently condemn Israel and predict its demise, but Rohani, a relative moderate, rarely employs such rhetoric.
Iran supports militant groups like Hezbollah and Hamas that are pledged to Israel's destruction. Iran has never threatened to attack Israel, but has vowed to retaliate if it is attacked. Israel views Iran as an existential threat.
Rohani said the United States cultivates close ties with "regional Muslim nations" to protect Israel, an apparent reference to Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia and the kingdom's Sunni Arab allies. He said bowing to American pressure amounts to "treason."
U.S. President Donald Trump re-imposed sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal in November, following his withdrawal from the nuclear deal in May.
The U.S. sanctions cover Iran’s shipping, financial and energy sectors.With limited exceptions, the sanctions will penalize countries that don’t stop importing Iranian oil and foreign companies that do business with blacklisted Iranian entities, including Iran’s central bank, a number of private financial institutions and state-run port and shipping companies.
The Associated Press contributed this report.