Iran warns of 'stronger response' if Israel retaliates to attack

AFP , Sunday 14 Apr 2024

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned on Sunday against any "reckless" Israeli retaliation to Tehran's unprecedented missile and drone attack, as world leaders urged restraint.

File photo - Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a press conference in Tehran, Iran. AP


Iran launched its first-ever direct attack on Israeli territory, marking a major escalation of the long-running covert war between the regional foes and sparking fears of a broader conflict, as conflict rages on in the Gaza Strip.

Tehran had repeatedly threatened to retaliate against Israel for a deadly April 1 air strike on Iran's consulate building in Damascus, and Washington had warned in recent days that a response was imminent.

Iran's President Raisi said in a statement that "if the Zionist regime (Israel) or its supporters demonstrate reckless behaviour, they will receive a decisive and much stronger response."

Numerous countries condemned the attack, and the United Nations Security Council is due to hold an emergency meeting later on Sunday over what it has called a "serious escalation".

Iran's proxies and allies also carried out coordinated attacks on Israeli positions.

AFP correspondents heard blasts in the skies above Jerusalem early Sunday, and overnight people sought cover in the city while some residents stockpiled water.

On Sunday morning, people were beginning to return to the streets of the occupied Jerusalem tentatively.

The Iranian army declared that its attack was "completed successfully," which it said was in "self defence" after the Damascus strike which killed seven of Iran's Revolutionary Guards including two generals earlier this month.

"Operation Honest Promise... achieved all its objectives", said Mohammad Bagheri, the Iranian armed forces' chief of staff.

Bagheri said the attack targeted an intelligence centre and the air base from which Tehran says the Israeli F-35 jets took off to strike the Damascus consulate.

"Both these centres were significantly destroyed," he said, though Israel maintains that the attack only resulted in minor damage.

Hundreds of Iranians gathered in Tehran's Palestine Square waving Iranian and Palestinian flags in a show of support for the military action.

'Ironclad' US support for Israel

Iran's allies in the region joined the attack, with Yemen's Tehran-backed Huthi rebels also launching drones at Israel, according to security agency Ambrey.

Lebanon's Hezbollah movement announced it had fired rockets at Israeli positions in the annexed Golan Heights around the same time, as well as a second barrage hours later.

An Israeli strike destroyed a building in Lebanon's east on Sunday, the state-run National News Agency reported. A source within Hezbollah told AFP that there were no casualties.

As the attack was occurring, US President Joe Biden reiterated Washington's "ironclad" support for Israel.

Biden said he told Netanyahu during a phone call that Israel's defence against the attack sent "a clear message to its foes that they cannot effectively threaten the security of Israel".

The Iranian mission to the United Nations warned Washington to keep out of Iran's conflict with Israel.

The mission added on X that it hoped Iran's attack would lead to no further escalation and "the matter can be deemed concluded".

NATO spokeswoman Farah Dakhlallah said the alliance condemned "Iran's overnight escalation", stressing, "It is vital that the conflict in the Middle East does not spiral out of control."

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned Iran's "reckless" action and pledged his government would "continue to stand up for Israel's security".

Regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia urged parties to exercise "restraint and spare the region and its peoples from the dangers of war".

The US Security Council was to meet at around 2000 GMT Sunday to discuss the latest crisis at Israel's request.

G7 nations will also hold a video conference in the early afternoon to discuss the attack.

Jordan, which is located between Israel and Iran, said it had intercepted "flying objects" that breached its airspace during the attack.

Before Tehran launched its attack on Saturday, the Israeli military warned Iran it would suffer the "consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further".

Iran had earlier seized an Israeli-linked container vessel in the Gulf, putting the whole region on alert.

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