Iran Attacks Israel: What We Know


Iran launched a large aerial attack on Israel and the territory it controls starting late on Saturday, firing at least 300 drones and missiles. It is the first such direct attack launched from Iranian territory after decades of shadow warfare between the two countries. The assault was in response to a recent strike on a building in the Iranian Embassy complex in Syria that killed several of Iran’s top commanders.

Here’s a look at what we know about the Iranian attack this weekend and its implications:

Air raid sirens sounded in Israel and the West Bank overnight, signaling the start of an attack that had been anticipated for days. In the event, almost all of the missiles and drones were intercepted, the Israeli military said on Sunday.

Israel had used two primary defensive weapons systems, the Iron Dome and the Arrow 3, to thwart the attack. The United States participated in the defensive actions, and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said that U.S. forces had intercepted missiles and attack drones launched from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Britain also said its planes had shot down drones. In addition, Jordan, which neighbors Israel, said that its military shot down aircraft and missiles that entered its airspace.

The attack caused no deaths, but 12 people were brought in to the Soroka Medical Center in southern Israel overnight. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief spokesman for Israel’s military, said the Nevatim air force base in the Negev desert in southern Israel suffered light damage from the attack and was functioning.

Iran and Israel have for decades engaged in clandestine warfare, in which they have attacked each other’s interests on land, sea, air and in cyberspace. Iran provides support for proxy forces including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza and the Houthis in Yemen. Israel has launched a series of attacks including killing Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in 2021, and assassinating a Revolutionary Guards commander, Col. Sayad Khodayee, in 2022.

The undeclared conflict escalated on April 1, when Israeli warplanes struck the building in Damascus that is part of the Iranian Embassy complex, according to Iranian and Syrian officials. At least three senior commanders and four officers overseeing Iran’s covert operations in the Middle East were killed. Iran vowed to retaliate.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has so far spoken only about the defensive military operation. In a post on social media on Sunday he said: “We intercepted. We blocked. Together we will win.”

President Biden, who has used increasingly robust language to criticize Mr. Netanyahu’s war in Gaza, has also repeatedly affirmed the country’s right to defend itself and sent weapons to the country. He said he would convene a meeting of the Group of 7 leaders on Sunday. The United Nations Security Council was also scheduled to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the attack.

Several hundred Iranians gathered in Tehran to celebrate the attack. Iran’s Foreign Ministry described the attack as a defensive measure, and the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps warned the United States against getting involved.

Iran’s attack comes more than six months after a deadly incursion led by Hamas on Israel, which sparked the war in Gaza. In the immediate term, the attack could distract attention from that conflict, but it also shows the region’s wider volatility, according to Nomi Bar-Yaacov, a fellow at the Chatham House think tank in London and an expert in Middle East politics.

Iran’s permanent mission to the United Nations said in a post on social media overnight that “the matter can be deemed concluded. However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe.”

U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity said that President Biden and his team, hoping to avoid further escalation, are advising Israel that its defense against the Iranian attack was a major victory that might not require another round of retaliation.

But Israel’s government will be under pressure to respond to the attack and Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said that its confrontation with Iran was “not over yet.”

Even so, it is possible that any response will not include a large scale attack on Iranian territory itself, thus limiting the chances of further escalation, according to Ms. Bar-Yaacov.

“Iranians have made it abundantly clear that they consider the attack over,” she said. “I would expect the U.S. to put a terrific amount of pressure on Israel not to respond inside Iran but rather to attack Iranian assets abroad, meaning its proxies.”


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