Israel put its embassies around the world on high alert on Saturday after Iranian threats of retaliation following the killing of a nuclear scientist near Tehran, Israeli N12 news reported on Saturday.
Iran has blamed Israel for the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who died on Friday after gunmen ambushed him in his car.
Iran’s supreme leader demanded the “definitive punishment” of those behind the killing that has raised fears of reignited tensions across the Middle East.
After years of being in the shadows, the image of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh suddenly was to be seen everywhere in Iranian media, as his widow spoke on state television. “He wanted to get martyred and his wish came true,” she said.
In Tehran, a small group of hard-line protesters burned images of President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden, who has said his administration will consider reentering Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. And while burning an American and Israeli flag, the hard-liners criticized Iran’s foreign minister who helped negotiate the nuclear deal, showing the challenge ahead of Tehran if officials chose to come back the accord.
The UN called for keeping restraint and avoiding the escalation of tensions in the Middle East, the deputy spokesman for the UN secretary-general said. “We urge restraint and the need to avoid any actions that could lead to an escalation of tensions in the region,” Farhan Haq said.
Germany called on all parties “to avoid taking any action which could lead to a new escalation of the situation” which “we absolutely do not need at this moment.”
Hours after the attack, the Pentagon announced it had brought the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier back into the Middle East, an unusual move as the carrier already spent months in the region.
Analysts have compared Fakhrizadeh to being on par with Robert Oppenheimer, the scientist who led America’s Manhattan Project in World War II that created the atom bomb.
Fakhrizadeh headed Iran’s so-called AMAD program that Israel and the West have alleged was a military operation looking at the feasibility of building a nuclear weapon.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that the “structured program” ended in 2003. Iran long has maintained its nuclear program is peaceful.