Sunday, 14 April 2024 04:49

The much anticipated Iranian attack on Israel happened last night. Here’s what we know so far

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Iran launched a swarm of explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel late on Saturday in its first-ever direct attack on Israeli territory, risking a major escalation as the United States pledged "ironclad" backing for Israel.

Sirens wailed and Reuters journalists in Israel said they heard distant heavy thuds and bangs from what local media called aerial interceptions of explosive drones. Authorities said a 7-year-old girl was critically injured.

Israel's military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said Iran launched dozens of ground-to-ground missiles at Israel, most of which were intercepted outside Israeli borders. They included more than 10 cruise missiles, he said.

The Iranian salvo amounted to more than 200 drones and missiles so far, Hagari said, and had caused light damage to one Israeli military facility.

The Israeli military said later that it was not advising any residents to prepare to take shelter, revising an earlier alert in what appeared to signal the end of the threat.

Israel's Channel 12 TV cited an unnamed Israeli official as saying there would be a "significant response" to the attack.

Iran had vowed retaliation for what it called an Israeli strike on its Damascus consulate on April 1 that killed seven Guards officers including two senior commanders and said its strike was a punishment for "Israeli crimes". Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the consulate attack.

"Should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran's response will be considerably more severe," the Iranian mission to the United Nations said, warning the U.S. to "stay away". However, it also said Iran now "deemed the matter concluded".

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned Iran's attack, saying he was "deeply alarmed about the very real danger of a devastating region-wide escalation."

The U.N. Security Council aims to meet at 4 p.m. ET (2000 GMT) on Sunday, a diplomat said on condition of anonymity, after Israel requested it condemn Iran's attack and designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization.

U.S. President Joe Biden, who on Friday had warned Iran against an attack, cut short a weekend visit to his home state of Delaware. He returned to Washington and met national security advisers, including his secretaries of defence and state, in the White House Situation Room. He pledged to stand with Israel.

"Our commitment to Israel’s security against threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad," he said on X after the meeting.

The Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, now in its seventh month, has ratcheted up tensions in the region, spreading to fronts with Lebanon and Syria and drawing long-range fire at Israeli targets from as far away as Yemen and Iraq.

British maritime security company Ambrey said in a statement that drones were also reportedly launched against Israel by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group.

Those clashes now threaten to morph into a direct open conflict pitting Iran and its regional allies against Israel and its main supporter, the United States. Regional power Egypt urged "utmost restraint".

While Israel and Iran have been bitter foes for decades, their long feud has mostly unfolded via proxy forces or by targeting each other's forces operating in third countries.

U.S. and British warplanes were involved in shooting down some Israel-bound drones over the Iraq-Syria border area, Channel 12 reported. Two U.S. officials said the U.S. military had shot down dozens of drone aircraft headed for Israel.

ESCALATION

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose official jet took off shortly after the attack began, convened the war cabinet at a military headquarters in Tel Aviv, his office said.

Israel and Lebanon said they were closing their airspace on Saturday night. Jordan, which lies between Iran and Israel, had readied air defences to intercept any drone or missile that violated its territory, two regional security sources said.

Residents in several Jordanian cities said they heard heavy aerial activity.

Syria, an ally of Iran, said it was putting its ground-to-air defence systems around the capital and major bases on high alert, army sources there said.

The European Union, Britain, France, Mexico, Czechia, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands all condemned Iran's attack.

Israel had been bracing for an Iranian response to the Damascus consulate strike since last week, when Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Israel "must be punished and shall be" for an operation he called equivalent to one on Iranian soil.

Iran's main ally in the region, the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah that has been exchanging fire with Israel since the Gaza war began on Oct. 7, said early on Sunday it had fired rockets at an Israeli base.

 

Reuters

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