Iran ex-Guards chief vows to turn Tel Aviv 'to dust'

Mohsen Rezai, who heads Iran's Expediency Council, a top state body, threatened to turn Israel's Tel Aviv and Haifa "to dust" (AFP Photo/ATTA KENARE) (AFP/File)

Tehran (AFP) - A former head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards threatened on Sunday to turn the Israeli cities of Haifa and Tel Aviv "to dust" if the US attacks targets in Iran.

"If America takes any measures after our military response, we will turn Tel Aviv and Haifa to dust," Mohsen Rezai, who currently heads the Expediency Council, a top state body, said in a Tweet.

His warning came after President Donald Trump warned on Saturday that the US would target 52 sites "important to Iran & Iranian culture" and hit them "very fast and very hard" if the Islamic republic attacked American personnel or assets.

In a saber-rattling tweet that defended Friday's US drone strike assassination of top Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani in Iraq, Trump said 52 represents the number of Americans held hostage at the US embassy in Tehran for more than a year starting in late 1979.

"Mr Trump, you tweeted that you will attack 52 targets in Iran?" Rezai was also quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency.

"You have said that you will attack again if Iran gets revenge? Be sure that Iran will turn Haifa and Israel's centres to dust in a way that Israel would be erased from the face of the earth," he warned.

Trump's tweet also drew condemnation from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who responded on Twitter saying "targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME".

Soleimani, who spearheaded Iran's Middle East operations as commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Force, was killed in a US drone strike Friday near Baghdad airport. He was 62.

The attack was ordered by Trump, who said the Quds commander had been planning an "imminent" attack on US diplomats and forces in Iraq.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed "severe revenge".