Tensions between Iran and Israel have reached a boiling point following an Israeli airstrike that killed a top Iranian general in Damascus last week. In response, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy seized an Israel-linked container ship near the Strait of Hormuz, further escalating the situation. Amid these developments, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari issued a stern warning to Iran in an English-language video statement.

"Iran will bear the consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further," Hagari said, emphasizing that Israel is on high alert and prepared to respond to any further Iranian aggression. He also highlighted Iran's role as the world's biggest state sponsor of terror, with its network threatening not only Israel and its neighbors but also fueling conflicts in Ukraine and beyond.

As the U.S. and Israel prepare for potential Iranian retaliation, three U.S. officials told Axios that Iran sent a message to the Biden administration through several Arab countries earlier this week. The message warned that if the U.S. gets involved in the fighting between Israel and Iran, U.S. forces in the region will be attacked. This threat comes despite U.S. efforts to distance itself from the Israeli strike that killed the Iranian general in Damascus.

The U.S. maintains it had no involvement in the strike, according to a senior U.S. official. However, the Iranian message conveyed through Arab governments suggests that Iran sees the U.S. as responsible for the attack, regardless of U.S. efforts to distance itself from it. "The Iranian message was we will attack the forces that attack us, so don't f--k with us and we won't f--k with you," one U.S. official said.

In response to the growing tensions, the U.S. is moving additional assets to the region to bolster regional deterrence efforts and increase force protection for U.S. forces, according to a U.S. defense official. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also assured Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant in a call on Thursday that Israel "could count on full U.S. support to defend Israel against Iranian attacks, which Tehran has publicly threatened."

Despite the escalating rhetoric, Iran appears to be sending a more nuanced message through other communication channels, signaling a desire for a limited response that will not lead to a regional escalation. Two U.S. officials said the Iranian message in calls with the foreign ministers of the UK, Australia, and Germany was more restrained compared to the threats conveyed through Arab countries.

As the situation continues to unfold, U.S. CENTCOM commander Gen. Michael "Erik" Kurilla is currently in Israel to coordinate the U.S.-Israeli defensive effort ahead of any possible Iranian strike. The Biden administration has requested Israel to notify and consult the U.S. in advance of any Israeli retaliation against Iran, as it felt Israel did not provide appropriate notice before its strike in Damascus that killed the Iranian general.

The coming days and weeks will be critical in determining whether the current tensions between Iran and Israel will escalate into a full-blown regional conflict or if diplomatic efforts can successfully de-escalate the situation. As the world watches anxiously, the U.S. and its allies must navigate this complex and volatile situation with great care to prevent further bloodshed and instability in the Middle East.