Israel says Iran attack 'foiled' as US now seeks diplomatic response

AFP , AP , Sunday 14 Apr 2024

Iran's unprecedented overnight attack on Israel has been "foiled", the Israeli military said Sunday, with hundreds of missiles and drones intercepted with the help of the United States and allies.

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Israeli Iron Dome air defense system launches to intercept missiles fired from Iran, in central Israel, Sunday, April 14, 2024. AP

 

The attack which began late Saturday marks a major escalation of the long-running covert war between the regional foes, and comes against the backdrop of the ongoing war on Gaza.

U.S. President Joe Biden said he would convene a meeting of the Group of Seven advanced democracies on Sunday “to coordinate a united diplomatic response to Iran’s brazen attack.” The language indicated that the Biden administration does not want Iran’s assault to spiral into a broader military conflict.

Iran launched the attack in response to a strike widely blamed on Israel on an Iranian consular building in Syria earlier this month which killed two Iranian generals.

Israel said Iran launched 170 drones, more than 30 cruise missiles and more than 120 ballistic missiles early Sunday.

By Sunday morning, Iran said the attack was over and Israel reopened its air space.

The two foes have for years been engaged in a shadow war marked by incidents like the Damascus strike. But Sunday’s assault, which set off air raid sirens across Israel, was the first time Iran has launched a direct military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Israel has over the years established – often with the help of the United States — a multilayered air-defense network that includes systems capable of intercepting a variety of threats including long-range missiles, cruise missiles, drones and short-range rockets.

That system, along with collaboration with the U.S. and other forces, helped thwart what could have been a far more devastating assault at a time when Israel is already bogged down in its war on Gaza and engaged in low-level fighting on its northern border with Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Israeli and U.S. officials lauded the response to the aerial assault.

“Iran launched more than 300 threats and 99% were intercepted,” said Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman. “That is a success.” Asked if Israel would respond, Hagari said the country would do what was needed to protect its citizens.

Hagari said that none of the drones and cruise missiles reached Israel and that only a few of the ballistic missiles got through. He said that of the cruise missiles, 25 were shot down by the Israeli air force.

Hagari said minor damage was caused to an Israeli airbase, but he said it was still functioning. Rescuers said a 7-year-old girl was seriously wounded in southern Israel, apparently in a missile strike, though they said police were still investigating the circumstances of her injuries.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a short message on X, formerly Twitter: “We intercepted. We blocked. Together, we will win.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also celebrated the results, thanking the U.S. and other countries for their assistance. He said Israel needs to remain vigilant and prepare for any scenario, but called the interceptions a “great success.”

Israel announced it reopened its airspace, loosening one restriction it had imposed ahead of the strike, although schools remained closed around the country. Neighboring Jordan also reopened its airspace.

Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, said the operation was over, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

“We have no intention of continuing the operation against Israel,” he was quoted as saying.

In Washington, Biden said U.S. forces helped Israel down “nearly all” the drones and missiles and pledged to convene allies to develop a unified response.

Biden, who had cut short a weekend stay at his Delaware beach house to meet with his national security team at the White House on Saturday afternoon, spoke with Netanyahu later in the day.

“I told him that Israel demonstrated a remarkable capacity to defend against and defeat even unprecedented attacks – sending a clear message to its foes that they cannot effectively threaten the security of Israel,” Biden said.

In a statement Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. does “not seek escalation,” and would hold talks with its allies in the coming days.

The U.S., along with its allies, has sent direct messages to Tehran to warn against further escalating the conflict. Leaders from the G7 will hold a video conference on Sunday early afternoon to discuss the Iranian strikes against Israel, according to Italy, which holds the presidency of the group of developed countries, which includes the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, and Canada.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard issued a new threat against the U.S.

"The terrorist U.S. government is warned any support or participation in harming Iran’s interests will be followed by decisive and regretting response by Iran’s armed forces," said a statement carried by IRNA.

Iran had vowed revenge since the April 1 airstrike in Syria, for which Tehran held Israel responsible. Israel hasn’t publicly commented on it.

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