On a day Iran and western powers reportedly agreed to move talks on Iran's nuclear weapons program to "a new phase," a commander of the Islamic Republic's volunteer paramilitary force issued new threats of "wiping Israel off the map."
The goal of Israel's destruction is non-negotiable, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, head of Iran's volunteer Basij Force said during a recent conference, according to a Kol Yisrael radio report. The Basij Force is a part of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Such talk might be dismissed as idle rhetoric.
But Iran continues to beef up Hizballah's rocket arsenal, smuggling guided warheads into Lebanon, the Jerusalem Post's Yaakov Lappin reports.
Iran "is manufacturing new and advanced ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles," Col. Aviram Hasson, an Israeli missile defense expert, told Israel Air and Missile Defense Conference in Herzliya this week. "It is turning unguided rockets that had an accuracy range of kilometers into weapons that are accurate to within meters."
The advancements put Hizballah, Iran's Lebanese terrorist proxy, "in a very different place compared to the Second Lebanon War in 2006," Hasson said.
In that war, Hizballah fired 4,000 rockets at Israeli cities. The range of its current arsenal of more than 100,000 rockets include some capable of traveling several hundred kilometers, placing Israel's civilian population centers at risk.
Israel's Home Front Command has warned cities that they may need to evacuate civilians in the face of an onslaught of dozens to hundreds of missiles in a single day, Lappin reports.
Those missiles are likely beyond the capability of Israel's "Iron Dome" defense system, which intercepted scores of Hamas rockets fired at the country during last summer's war in Gaza. "David's Sling," a similar system for longer range missiles, isn't expected to be operational for another year.
Hizballah fighters are busy in Syria, fighting alongside dictator Bashar al-Assad's forces in fighting that has claimed more than 210,000 lives. But the group continues to plan for the next war with Israel, too, perhaps because Iran's rhetoric about seeking Israel's annihilation is consistent and specific.
"The biggest threat to our security and our future was and remains Iran's attempts to arm with nuclear weapons," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.