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News / Nation & World

Israel says it will retaliate against Iran

With focus on war with Hamas in Gaza, U.S. urges Israel to show restraint

By Associated Press
Published: April 16, 2024, 5:34pm

JERUSALEM — Israel is vowing to retaliate against Iran, risking further expanding the shadow war between the two foes into a direct conflict after an Iranian attack over the weekend sent hundreds of drones and missiles toward Israel.

Israeli officials have not said how or when they might strike. But as countries around the world urge Israel to show restraint and the threat of a multifront war mounts, it’s clear that a direct Israeli attack on Iranian soil would lead to major fallout.

Iran says it carried out the strike to avenge an Israeli airstrike that killed two Iranian generals in Syria on April 1. It has pledged a much tougher response to any Israeli counterattack attack on its soil.

With Israel focused on its war against Hamas in Gaza, and already battling Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants in Lebanon every day, the U.S. has urged Israel to show restraint.

U.S. officials say President Joe Biden has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the U.S. will not participate in any offensive action against Iran, and the president made “very clear” to Netanyahu “that we do have to think carefully and strategically” about the risks of escalation.

Israel’s war cabinet has spent two days debating their next move.

INCREASING ISRAELI ISOLATION: Israel’s successful air defense Saturday night — conducted in tandem with the U.S., Britain, France and Jordan — bought the country a brief moment of international support and sympathy after months of mounting international isolation over the Gaza war. The six-month offensive has killed nearly 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, and unleashed a humanitarian catastrophe.

A coalition of international partners helped Israel defend itself effectively. Israel’s military says 99 percent of the weapons were intercepted, with few reaching Israeli airspace. The attack caused only minor damage and wounded one person: a 7-year-old girl.

This coalition worked under the leadership of the U.S. Central Command, which oversees American forces in the region. It works closely with Israel and moderate Arab countries to form a unified front against Iran. Jordan, a country whose population is predominantly pro-Palestinian, joined the effort, despite being at odds with Israel over the war in Gaza.

It also appears likely that help may have come from regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which does not have official relations with Israel. A map released by Israel shows many of the Iranian missiles flying through Saudi airspace.

Israel has been careful not to identify its Arab partners, but an Israeli air force official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the mission, said Israeli warplanes needed to fly “east of Israel” to shoot down missiles.

Yoel Guzansky, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies, a Tel Aviv think tank, said Israel would be risking this goodwill if it acts alone.

“Israel can take advantage of this and buy itself a lot of credit right now, if it does not launch a massive retaliatory attack,” he said. “But if it does attack, a lot of credit is lost.”

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FEARS OF A MULTIFRONT WAR: A major retaliatory strike on Iranian soil risks sparking a full-scale regional war, so any response must be carefully calculated.

A direct strike on Iranian soil would almost certainly result in a brutal counterattack and risk prompting Hezbollah to launch further attacks. The Iranian-backed Lebanese group has a far more powerful arsenal than Hamas, but has so far shown hesitancy about engaging in an all-out war.

Some 60,000 citizens in northern Israel already have been forced to evacuate their homes due to ongoing exchanges with Hezbollah. Heavier fighting would likely force them to spend even more time away from home.

A direct conflict would also further stretch Israel’s military, remove its focus from Gaza and hamper Israel’s economy.