Iran has reportedly test-fired two ballistic missiles marked with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out”, as US Vice President Joe Biden visited Israel.
Such phrases have been emblazoned on missiles fired before by Iran, but the latest test comes as the country recently signed a nuclear deal with world powers, including America. Hardliners in Iran‘s military have fired rockets and missiles despite US objections since the deal, as well as shown underground missile bases on state television.
There was no immediate reaction from Jerusalem, where Mr Biden was scheduled to speak to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who strongly opposed the nuclear deal.
The semi-official Fars news agency offered pictures on Wednesday which it said were of the Qadr H missiles being fired. It said they were fired in Iran‘s eastern Alborz mountain range to hit a target some 870 miles (1,400km) away off Iran‘s coast into the Sea of Oman. The US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols that region, declined to comment on the test.
Fars quoted Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of Iran‘s Revolutionary Guard’s aerospace division, saying the test was aimed at showing Israel that Iran could hit it.
“The 2,000-kilometre (1,240-mile) range of our missiles is to confront the Zionist regime,” Mr Hajizadeh said. “Israel is surrounded by Islamic countries and it will not last long in a war. It will collapse even before being hit by these missiles.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to immediately comment. Iran has threatened to destroy Israel in the past. Israel, which is believed to have the only nuclear weapons arsenal in the Mideast, repeatedly has threatened to take military action against Iran‘s nuclear facilities.
The firing of the Qadr H missiles comes after a US State Department spokesman criticised another missile launch on Tuesday, saying America planned to bring it before the United Nations Security Council.
A nuclear deal between Iran and world powers including the US is now under way, negotiated by the administration of moderate President Hassan Rouhani. In the time since the deal, however, hardliners in Iran‘s military have made several shows of strength.
Iran has fired rockets near US warships and flown an unarmed drone over an American aircraft carrier in recent months.
In January, Iran seized 10 US sailors in the Gulf when their two riverine command boats headed from Kuwait to Bahrain ended up in Iranian territorial waters after the crews “misnavigated”, the US military said.
The sailors were taken to a small port facility on Farsi Island, held for about 15 hours and released after US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke several times with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.