Amid killings attributed to Israel, Bennett vows ‘no immunity’ for Iranian regime

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett threatened Iran on Sunday, after a week that saw an Iranian colonel assassinated and an Iranian engineer killed at a military complex — both actions reportedly attributed to Israel.

“For years the Iranian regime employed terror against Israel and the region through its emissaries, but the head of the octopus, Iran itself, enjoyed some sort of immunity,” Bennett said at the opening of a special cabinet meeting to mark Jerusalem Day, which celebrates the city’s reunification during the 1967 Six Day War.

“As we have said more than once, the period of immunity for the Iranian regime is over,” he said, in what some took to be a hint at Israeli involvement in the recent killings. “Whoever funds terrorists, whoever arms terrorists, whoever sends out terrorists, will pay the full price.”

On Wednesday, an explosion at Iran’s Parchin military complex killed an engineer. The New York Times reported Friday that the attack was carried out by quadcopter suicide drones, in an attack that fits a pattern of previous strikes that have been attributed to Israel.

The alleged drone strike came after gunmen on May 22 killed an officer in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the middle of Tehran.

Israel has told US officials that it was behind the assassination and that it killed Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei in an effort to warn Tehran against the continued operation of an alleged covert unit he helped lead, an intelligence official told the Times. Israeli officials did not confirm the report, and publicly criticized the US over the leaked story.

Mourners gather around a truck carrying the flag draped coffin of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei who was killed on Sunday, in his funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

In his Sunday comments, Bennett pointed to anti-regime protests over the weekend in Iran, which were violently dispersed by police, saying the Iranian government is “choosing tyranny, terror, and lies.” He added — noting shortages in some areas of Iran of basic supplies such as water and bread — that Iran was “investing in terror,” including an underground drone base that Iran recently showed off.

“Iran is also investing in lies such as its systematic misleading of the IAEA in order to escape monitoring by the organization,” Bennett continued, referring to a report last week that Iran had spied on the International Atomic Energy Agency, obtaining classified documents the UN watchdog agency had about Iran’s nuclear program and then used the information to hide aspects of its nuclear research program.

Khodaei was shot dead last Sunday outside his home by assailants on motorcycles, in a killing Iran blamed on “elements linked to the global arrogance,” its term for the United States and its allies including Israel. He was reportedly involved in assassinations and abductions outside of Iran, including attempts to target Israelis.

According to the Times, Israeli officials claimed Khodaei was deputy head of the so-called Unit 840, a shadowy division within the IRGC’s expeditionary Quds Force that carries out kidnappings and assassinations of figures outside of Iran, including against Israelis. Khodaei was specifically in charge of Unit 840’s Middle East operations, but he had been involved in attempted terror attacks against Israelis, Europeans, and American civilians and government officials in Colombia, Kenya, Ethiopia, the UAE and Cyprus, in the last two years alone.

Israel, which has made no official comments on the incident, has reportedly raised the security alert level at its embassies and consulates around the world, fearing a retaliatory Iranian attack.

Khodaei’s assassination was the most high-profile killing inside Iran since the November 2020 killing of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, which Iran also blamed on Israel.

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