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Iran launches airstrikes toward Israel in retaliatory move, boosting chance of wider conflict

Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — Iran launched waves of attack drones toward Israel on Saturday in retaliation for a deadly Israeli airstrike this month, in what may be the start of a broader multi-front reprisal.

A military response from Israel is expected, although it was unclear how robust it would be. Air raid sirens were reported in southern Israel early Sunday. Attacks from Iranian soil to Israel proper would represent a major escalation in regional conflict amid the Israel-Hamas war that has raged for six months in Gaza.

President Joe Biden cut short his weekend in Delaware and rushed back to the White House, where he was joined by a team of national security advisers. They had been bracing for a violent response from Iran after Israeli airstrikes April 1 killed seven senior Iranian officials at an Iranian diplomatic mission in Syria.

Biden was also joined by the secretaries of Defense and State, Lloyd J. Austin III and Antony J. Blinken, amid reports that U.S. forces deployed in the Middle East were helping Israel pinpoint and intercept incoming rockets.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, reported the launch of Iranian drones and said Israel was already on high security alert, canceling school and large public gatherings until further notice. He spoke in a televised address.

Journalists in Jerusalem reported hearing overhead explosions that may have been weapons systems blasting incoming rockets, while warning sirens sounded through the early predawn hours. The Israeli army ordered residents in the Golan Heights, the disputed territory near Israel's border with Syria, to "stay in protective spaces."

 

"The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran," White House national security spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said after confirming Iran's attack, echoing Biden as recently as Friday.

Iran, through its official state news agency IRNA, said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fired "dozens of drones and missiles toward the positions of the Zionist regime in the occupied Palestinian territories." Iran considers all of Israel to be an occupied territory, so the statement did not clarify what the targets would be.

In Israel, where it was already Sunday, local media reported that Iran was following up the drones — which Israel would in theory be able to largely intercept — with potentially deadlier cruise missiles or other bombs.

Iran's proxy in Lebanon, the Hezbollah militant organization, arrayed across Lebanon's southern border with Israel, could also be expected to attack with missiles in a larger display of the kind of daily cross-border barrages both sides have been executing.

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