Iran Vows to Keep Forces in Syria After Netanyahu Warns of More Strikes

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The chief of the Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari
The chief of the Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Mohammad Ali JafariCredit: Vahid Salemi / ASSOCIATED PRESS

The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday that Iran will retain its military presence in Syria, defying Israeli threats that they might be targeted if they do not leave the country. 

"The Islamic Republic of Iran will keep its military advisors, revolutionary forces and its weapons in Syria," the top commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Tehran to withdraw forces from the war-torn country, warning Iran of Israeli actions against forces there. "I advise them to leave [Syria] quickly, because we will continue with our assertive policy, as promised, without fear and without a break."

Jafari called Netanyahu's threats "a joke", and warned that the Israeli government "was playing with (a) lion's tail." 

"You should be afraid of the day that our precision-guided missiles roar and fall on your head," he said. 

>> Ambiguous no more: Israel owns Syria strikes, but Iran may get the last word | Analysis

Last week, former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot gave a round of press interviews, claiming that the IDF has assessed that Iran has given up on its plan to establish permanent bases in Syria. 

Since January 2017, Israel has been secretly striking Iranian targets in Syria, mainly against "infrastructure." But following an Iranian decision to send an armed drone into Israeli airspace in February 2018, Israel's campaign against Iran not only escalated but also became public, including what Eisenkot last described as "thousands of attacks," not only from air, but also special-operations commando raids. 

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