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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

Iran’s mission to the United Nations said in a statement posted on social media that its action was a defensive move in response to Israel’s attack on the consulate in Damascus, the Syrian capital.

“The matter can be deemed concluded,” the statement said. “However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe. It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, from which the U.S. MUST STAY AWAY!”

Iran said the attack on its facility in Damascus violated international law governing diplomatic missions. U.S. officials raised doubts over the status of the building, alleging it was being used to plot military actions against Israel.

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

Still, U.S. officials have long said direct military engagement between Israel and Iran would be a game-changer.

“We are in totally uncharted territory,” Mairav Zonszein, Middle East analyst with the International Crisis Group, said on the social media platform X.

“Iran attacking Israel would be the prelude of a wider regional war,” Mark Esper, who served as Defense secretary in the Trump administration, said on CNN.

Biden administration officials, along with counterparts from several Arab and European nations, in recent days had been urging Iran to show restraint even as Tehran’s heated rhetoric increased and preparations for an attack were clearly under way.

Several countries neighboring Israel, such as Jordan, on Saturday closed their airspace, while others, including the Netherlands, ratcheted up official warnings against travel to Israel.


U.S. officials also urged Israel to calibrate any response commensurate with Iran’s action.

But a wider conflict, in a region already reeling from Israel’s devastating war in the Gaza Strip, would further stymie Washington’s diplomatic efforts aimed at easing tension and freeing hostages held by the Hamas militant group, including several U.S. citizens.

It could also undermine Biden’s domestic support among war-weary voters less than seven months before the U.S. presidential election.

The Middle East has been engulfed in crisis since Hamas attacked Israelis in southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking more than 200 hostage. That triggered an Israeli campaign of airstrikes and ground-based raids that have killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry.

Earlier Saturday, Revolutionary Guard commandos seized an Israeli-linked container ship near the Strait of Hormuz. Photos showed members of the paramilitary unit rappelling onto the deck from helicopters.

IRNA, the state-run Iranian news agency, said the Revolutionary Guard’s naval unit took the MSC Aries, a Portuguese-flagged cargo ship associated with Zodiac Maritime Shipping Co. and Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer. The agency said the commandos were turning the vessel toward Iranian waters. MSC said 25 crew members were on the ship.

“We are working closely with the relevant authorities to ensure their wellbeing, and safe return of the vessel,” the company said in a statement.

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