Soleimani had it coming’: Israelis cautiously welcome U.S. strike on Iran general

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TEL AVIV — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is none too popular in secular and liberal Tel Aviv, but few here find fault in his embrace of President Donald Trump and the U.S. decision to kill Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Iraq last week.

“Soleimani had it coming,” said Rona Tal, who was whiling away a washed-out afternoon in a hip Tel Aviv cafe. “Iran has been provoking Israel and the U.S. for years.”

Tal’s remarks were echoed across the city, where many Tel Aviv residents welcomed Soleimani’s assassination.

Iran has vowed revenge and “harsh retaliation” after Soleimani’s killing, leaving some fearing that Israel could face retribution as a close U.S. ally in the region.

The view was also supported by former defense officials and one-time members of the Israeli security establishment, who described his killing as a significant blow for Iran in its “twilight” war against Israel.

“When a key enemy unit loses its top strategist, policy maker, shadow diplomat and symbolic brand it surely is a huge setback,” said Assaf Orion, a former head of strategic planning for the Israeli military’s planning directorate.

“President Trump has brought to an end the rule of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on the radical Sunni [Islam] side and now Soleimani from the Shiite terror set, and that’s quite an impressive achievement.”

Soleimani was the leader of the secretive Quds force, a branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, and spent decades overseeing the development of Iran-backed proxies in Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip that now face Israel to the north and south.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah, an armed political group established by Iran in the 1980s, bears down on small Israeli-border communities. In Syria, Israel has confronted the Revolutionary Guard and Iran-backed militias, and in Gaza Iran has long supported Palestinian militant groups, including the enclave’s Hamas rulers and particularly the smaller Islamic Jihad group.

By Kayongo Brian Timothy

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