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Israel says it's under attack by Iranian drones as risk surges

John Harney, Alisa Odenheimer and Arsalan Shahla, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

Iran launched attack drones and missiles against Israel in apparent retaliation for a strike in Syria that killed top Iranian military officers, marking what’s likely to prove an unprecedented attack that raises the risk of a wider regional conflict.

Israel’s armed forces announced late Saturday that Iran launched attacks from within its territory toward Israel and that Israeli forces are on high alert. With the expectation that it may take hours for the drones and missiles to arrive, Israel said it would shut down its airspace starting at half past midnight, for both domestic and international flights.

President Joe Biden planned to meet with top national security advisers in the Situation Room once he returns to Washington from Rehoboth Beach. Biden was also briefed earlier Saturday by national security aides Jake Sullivan and Jon Finer before departing Delaware.

The U.S. confirmed that Iran had begun an airborne attack against Israel and said it was likely to unfold over “a number of hours.”

“President Biden has been clear: Our support for Israel’s security is ironclad,” White House spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement. “The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran.”

The assault escalates a Middle East conflict that began on Oct. 7 when thousands of Hamas operatives broke into Israel from Gaza, killing about 1,200 people and abducting 250. A direct clash between Iran and Israel would likely draw in the Lebanon-based group Hezbollah, which like Hamas is backed by Iran, and heighten the possibility of a regional war.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has repeatedly warned Israel will be “punished” for the deadly strike in Damascus on April 1, which destroyed the Islamic Republic’s consulate building and killed at least 13 people including seven Iranian military personnel. Israel hasn’t claimed responsibility for the attack, in keeping with its usual response to accusations of targeting Iran.

 

Recent history suggests any assault will be measured against what might come next from Iran’s adversaries. When the U.S. killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qassem Soleimani in 2020, for example, Iran opted for nonlethal attacks on military bases.

Israeli officials have said that if their country were hit, Iran’s leaders should expect a counterattack.

Iran has tried to be circumspect on its role in hostile acts by allied militant groups beyond its borders. That policy became more difficult after Hamas attacked Israel, touching off an extended war in Gaza. The Houthis used that as a pretext for missile attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, while Hezbollah has exchanged fire across the border with Israel almost daily since the incursion.

On April 10, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with  Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and “made clear that the U.S. will stand with Israel against any threats by Iran and its proxies,” a State Department spokesman said.

In a post on X, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron said he had told Iran’s foreign minister in a call Thursday that the country must not draw the Middle East into a wider conflict.

“I am deeply concerned about the potential for miscalculation leading to further violence,” Cameron wrote. “Iran should instead work to de-escalate and prevent further attacks.”


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