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Iran vows no military withdrawal from Syria despite Israeli threats

Iranian Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh. (Mahmood Hossein/Tasnim News Agency/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps says Iran will retain its military presence in Syria, defying Israeli threats that Iranian forces will be targeted if they do not leave the war-torn country.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will keep its military advisers, revolutionary forces, and its weapons in Syria,” Iranian media quoted Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari as saying on January 16.

The comments come days after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was “more determined than ever to act against Iran in Syria.”

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on January 13, Netanyahu also said that Israel had succeeded in “curbing Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria” by attacking Iranian and Hizballah targets there “hundreds” of times.”

Jafari called Netanyahu’s threats “a joke” and warned that the Israeli government “was playing with [a] lion’s tail.”

“Be afraid of the day that Iran’s precision-guided missiles roar and fall on your head and revenge all the blood you have spilt of innocent Muslims in the region,” the Iranian general said.

Iran, along with Russia and Lebanon’s Shi’ite militant group Hizballah, has given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government crucial support throughout the war, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011.

The conflict has left more than 400,000 people dead, displaced millions, and devastated many historic sites across the country.