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Israel is in ‘open war’ with Iran: Shimon Peres

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Israel is in an “open war” with Iran, President Shimon Peres said Monday in an interview with CNN, as he blamed Iran and Hezbollah for last week’s bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israelis.

In the interview, Peres said Israel had “enough” hard intelligence to link the Bulgaria attack to Iran and its proxy in Lebanon Hezbollah and believes more attacks are being planned as part of what he called an “open war against Israel.”

He added that Israel would act to prevent further attacks.

Asked whether the Bulgaria bombing and the other attempted attacks were revenge for the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, which Iran blames on Israel, the Israeli president said that the Jewish state has never claimed responsibility for the killings. But he noted that Israel has a right to prevent killing of its citizens.

“We don’t have an initiative of terror,” Peres said. “We don’t do it. But self-defense is the right and the must of every people.”

He said Israel’s policy was one of “prevention,” rather than “retaliation.”

“If you have enough information about a certain person which is a ticking clock that can explode a bomb that can endanger civilian life, clearly you have to prevent him from doing so,” Peres said, citing reports that the United States has killed as many as 3,000 people in drone strikes aimed at eliminating terrorists.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Iran for the deadly attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, warning that his country would “respond forcefully” to strikes by Tehran.

“All the signs lead to Iran,” he said in a statement on the blast which Bulgarian officials said killed three people. “Israel will respond forcefully to Iranian terror.”

Tehran responded by saying it strongly condemns “all terrorist acts.”

Meanwhile with neighboring Syria in the midst of civil war, Peres reiterated Israeli statements that it will be forced to seize Syria’s chemical weapons if there is a risk President Bashar al-Assad would use them against Israel or that the arsenal could fall into the wrong hands.

Defense official Amos Gilad has previously said that Israel is afraid Syria’s large chemical stocks could be seized by Lebanese militants, al-Qaeda-affiliated radicals or other unspecified “irresponsible elements” operating in Syria.

Israel’s top defense officials convened for emergency meetings on Wednesday to discuss the deteriorating security situation in Syria, reflecting growing concerns that violence sweeping Israel’s northern neighbor could spill across the border.

Later Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he ordered the military to prepare contingency plans to attack Syria’s chemical weapons arsenals, should it become necessary.

“The use of chemical weapons is internationally forbidden... and what do you do when somebody violates the law? You fight against it,” Peres said.

“You stop them. We shall not remain indifferent and tell them, ‘Do what you want.’“

When asked how far Israel would go to secure Syria’s chemical arsenal, Peres said: “Until it will stop being a danger.”

With Israel facing a potential incursion of refugees, Peres said although no Syrians have tried to enter the country, Israel would not help any refugees who want to cross the border and would use force against any armed individuals.

“If they will come by force, we shall stop them by force,” Peres said. “If they shall come in without force, we shall stop them the way any country defended her border with civilian means.”