Pentagon Official Heads to Israel Amid Fears of Iranian Attack

A senior U.S. military commander was traveling to Israel on Thursday, officials said, as fears ran high that Iran would soon launch a strike to avenge the killings of several senior commanders.

Iran’s leaders have repeatedly vowed to punish Israel for an April 1 strike in Syria that killed several senior Iranian commanders. U.S. officials have said they are bracing for a possible Iranian response, and Israel has put its military on alert.

A day after President Biden warned that Iran was threatening a “significant” attack, Defense Department officials said that the top American military commander for the Middle East, Gen. Michael E. Kurilla, was traveling to Israel. He will coordinate with Israel on what is expected to be imminent retaliatory action by Iran, as well as discuss the war in Gaza, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.Israel’s military declined to comment on the general’s visit.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged on Thursday that Israel was facing “challenging times,” noting that “in the midst of the war in Gaza” his country was “also prepared for scenarios involving challenges in other sectors.”

“We have determined a simple rule: Whoever harms us, we will harm them,” he said while visiting an air base, using language that in recent days has been used to refer to threats from Iran and its proxies.

While President Biden has become increasingly critical of Mr. Netanyahu’s conduct of the war in Gaza — threatening to withhold U.S. assistance unless Israel does more to protect civilians — he emphasized on Wednesday that American support for Israel in the face of an Iranian threat was unconditional.

“As I told Prime Minister Netanyahu, our commitment to Israel’s security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad,” he said at a news conference.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken also “made clear that the U.S. will stand with Israel against any threats by Iran and its proxies” when he spoke by phone on Wednesday with Israel’s defense minister, the State Department said.

As Iran and Israel have traded fresh threats in recent days, diplomats have been trying to reduce tensions and avert a wider regional war.

The foreign minister of Germany, Annalena Baerbock, spoke to her Iranian counterpart “about the tense situation” in the Middle East on Thursday, according to her office.

“Avoiding further regional escalation must be in everyone’s interest,” it said in a statement. “We urge all actors in the region to act responsibly and exercise maximum restraint.”

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