By Syed Zafar Mehdi
TEHRAN (AA) - A large-scale military drill by Iran this week was aimed at sending a "serious warning" to arch-foe Israel, top Iranian military officials said on Friday.
The five-day military exercise dubbed “Great Prophet 17,” held along the coastlines of the southern Iranian provinces of Hormozgan, Bushehr, and Khuzestan, ended on Friday.
The war games came amid ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna, as well as in the wake of soaring tensions between Iran and Israel.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the drill, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) chief Gen. Hossein Salami said it was intended to send a "very clear message" and a "serious, real warning" to Tel Aviv.
"We will cut off their hands if they make a wrong move," he said, in a strongly-worded warning. "The difference between actual operations and military exercises is just a change in the angles of launching missiles."
Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of Iran's armed forces also commenting on the launch of 16 ballistic missiles on the last day of the drill, said it was done in "response" to what he called Israel's "empty threats."
The five-day drill involved ground, navy, and air force personnel of the IRGC.
On the final day, the IRGC's aerospace division launched 16 ballistic missiles, all of which hit their targets, the commander of IRGC's aerospace unit, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, told reporters.
The last day also saw the launch of combat drones, targeting predetermined targets, officials said.
The large-scale drill came amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Tel Aviv and recent threats by senior Israeli officials, including a warning that Israeli forces would strike key Iranian nuclear facilities.
Citing unnamed "security sources," Nour News, affiliated with the top Iranian security body, said last week that Israel was considering "mischief" against Iran, apparently to derail ongoing talks in Vienna.
It came days after Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced during his visit to the United Arab Emirates that he had ordered the Israeli military to prepare for a possible military strike on Iran.
Gantz's remarks came after the chief of Israel's spy agency Mossad, David Bernea, asserted that Tel Aviv would do "whatever it takes" to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state.
Last month, Israeli Premier Naftali Bennett also signaled his country's readiness to confront Tehran, saying the deal in Vienna would not prevent that.
"Iran is much more vulnerable than is generally thought," he said at an event.
The eighth round of talks between Iran and the P4+1 (Russia, China, France, UK, Germany) is set to resume in Vienna on Monday amid uncertainty over the outcome.