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Business News/ News / World/  Israel Under Attack by Iran as Mideast in Perilous New Phase
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Israel Under Attack by Iran as Mideast in Perilous New Phase

Iran launched armed drones and missiles against Israel, marking a new and more dangerous phase of the Middle East conflict. The attack, in retaliation for a strike in Syria that killed top Iranian military officers, marked the first time Iran has struck Israel from its soil.

Israel Under Attack by Iran as Mideast in Perilous New PhasePremium
Israel Under Attack by Iran as Mideast in Perilous New Phase

(Bloomberg) -- Iran launched armed drones and missiles against Israel, marking a new and more dangerous phase of the Middle East conflict. The attack, in retaliation for a strike in Syria that killed top Iranian military officers, marked the first time Iran has struck Israel from its soil.

Israel’s armed forces announced late Saturday that Iran launched attacks from within its territory toward Israel and that Israeli forces were on high alert. Anticipating the arrival of the drones and missiles, Israel said it would shut down its airspace for domestic and international flights.

US President Joe Biden returned to the White House from his private residence in Delaware. “I just met with my national security team for an update on Iran’s attacks against Israel," Biden said in a posting on X, formerly Twitter. “Our commitment to Israel’s security against threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad." 

Iran’s mission to the United Nations said the action was a “legitimate" defensive response to the strike in Damascus — which Israel hasn’t acknowledged carrying out — and suggested it was a warning. It also warned the US to stay away from the conflict. “The matter can be deemed concluded," the Iranian mission said in a social media post. “However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe."

Multiple alarms sounded in various locations in Israel: Jerusalem, Beer Sheva and Dimona in the south, and the Jewish settlement Ariel in the West Bank. Residents of Jerusalem reported hearing blasts. Alarms also sounded in Israel’s north. Just before the alarms went off, Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari confirmed that Iran had launched missiles at Israel.

A US defense official confirmed that its forces in the region shot down Iranian-launched drones targeting Israel. The UK Defense Ministry confirmed it deployed Royal Air Force jets to intercept Iranian drones headed for Israel if necessary. 

Israel’s goal was to stop the missiles and drones before they land.

Over the past decade-and-a-half, Israel has upgraded its air defenses considerably, adding new systems for interceptions of ballistic missiles fired from as far away as 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles.) That range includes Yemen, Syria and Iraq, where militant groups allied with Iran are based, as well as Iran.

The Israel Defense Forces said it was cutting off GPS services in some areas as part of its preparations and that “if we detect additional threats with a shorter arrival time, we will update you immediately."

The assault escalates a Middle East conflict that began on Oct. 7 when thousands of Hamas operatives broke into Israel from Gaza, killing about 1,200 people and abducting 250. A direct clash between Iran and Israel would likely draw in the Lebanon-based group Hezbollah, which like Hamas is backed by Iran, and heighten the possibility of a regional war. 

“We are closely monitoring Iranian killer drones that are en-route to Israel sent by Iran," Israel Defense Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a video. The direct attack from Iranian soil is “a severe and dangerous escalation," he said.

The US confirmed earlier that Iran had begun an airborne attack against Israel, saying it’s likely to unfold over “a number of hours."

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was among the first leaders to respond to the attack. “The UK will continue to stand up for Israel’s security and that of all our regional partners, including Jordan and Iraq," Sunak said in a statement. “ Alongside our allies, we are urgently working to stabilise the situation and prevent further escalation. No one wants to see more bloodshed."

France and the European Union also condemned Iran’s action.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has repeatedly warned Israel will be “punished" for the deadly strike in Damascus on April 1, which destroyed the Islamic Republic’s consulate building and killed at least 13 people including seven Iranian military personnel. Israel hasn’t claimed responsibility for the attack, in keeping with its usual response to accusations of targeting Iran.

Recent history suggests any assault will be measured against what might come next from Iran’s adversaries. When the US killed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qassem Soleimani in 2020, for example, Iran opted for non-lethal attacks on military bases.

The most active and well-known of Israel’s air defenses is Iron Dome, which has intercepted thousands of rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2011. But Iron Dome is designed for missiles and drones with a short range, and is just one of the advanced missile defense systems in place. Israel also has a medium-to-long-range interceptor known as David’s Sling, plus the Arrow defense system, which developers say can intercept missiles fired from as faras 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles) away and can do so above Earth’s atmosphere.

Read more: As Iran Threatens Attack, These Are Israel’s Defenses: QuickTake

Israeli officials have said that if their country were hit, Iran’s leaders should expect a counterattack. 

Iran has tried to be circumspect on its role in hostile acts by allied militant groups beyond its borders. That policy became more difficult after Hamas attacked Israel, touching off an extended war in Gaza. The Houthis used that as a pretext for missile attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, while Hezbollah has exchanged fire across the border with Israel almost daily since the incursion.

--With assistance from Ethan Bronner, Augusta Saraiva, Galit Altstein, Alex Wickham and Justin Sink.

(Updates with Iranian statement starting in fourth paragraph, US shooting down drones in sixth)

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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Published: 14 Apr 2024, 05:54 AM IST
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