The Israeli political official, described as familiar with the drill, told the London-based The Times that the long-range mission was designed to prepare for a possible strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities and to send a message to the world that it is ready to take military action if diplomacy fails to halt Tehran’s atomic program.
"The Iranians should read the writing on the wall. This was a dress rehearsal, and the Iranians should read the script before they continue with their program for nuclear weapons," the source said. "If diplomacy does not yield results, Israel will take military steps to halt Tehran’s production of bomb-grade uranium.”
The New York Times on Friday quoted US officials saying Israel carried out a large military exercise this month that appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran's nuclear facilities,
Citing unidentified American officials, the newspaper said more than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters took part in the maneuvers over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece in the first week of June.
It said the exercise appeared to be an effort to focus on long-range strikes and illustrates the seriousness with which Israel views Iran's nuclear program.
A Pentagon official who the Times said was briefed on the exercise, said one goal was to practice flight tactics, aerial refueling and other details of a possible strike against Iran's nuclear installations and long-range conventional missiles.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a second goal was to send a clear message that Israel was prepared to act militarily if other efforts to stop Iran from producing bomb-grade uranium fail.
"They wanted us to know, they wanted the Europeans to know, and they wanted the Iranians to know," the Pentagon official said, according to the Times. "There's a lot of signaling going on at different levels."
The newspaper said Israeli officials would not discuss the exercise. A spokesman for the Israeli military would say only that the country's air force "regularly trains for various missions in order to confront and meet the challenges posed by the threats facing Israel," according to the NY Times.
Iran says continues nuclear enrichment 'non-stop'
The chief of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said in remarks aired on Friday that he would resign if there was a military strike on Iran, warning that any such attack would turn the region into a "fireball".
"What I see in Iran today is a current, grave and urgent danger. If a military strike is carried out against Iran at this time ... It would make me unable to continue my work," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamad ElBaradei told al-Arabiya television in an interview.
Meanwhile Saturday, Iran's envoy to the UN nuclear agency was quoted as saying Tehran was pressing on with nuclear enrichment "non-stop," despite a world powers' offer of economic incentives if it halts such work.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran continues with enrichment non-stop," Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Tehran's envoy to the IAEA, told Iran's state broadcaster in an interview.
He said Iran's enrichment activities were under constant surveillance by IAEA cameras and that inspections by the Vienna-based agency took place continuously.
"The issue of requesting a stop to uranium enrichment is an old issue without technical and legal basis," Soltanieh said, adding Iran wanted to continue cooperation with the agency.
Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters on Saturday that his country considered an attack by arch-enemy Israel as "impossible".
"Such impudence and audacity to have an aggression against our national interest and integrity is an impossible action," he said.
Reuters and AFP contributed to this report