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Israel vows victory; Iran warns of 'larger response' against retaliation after attack

Global powers Russia, China and France, as well as Arab states Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates urged restraint as flights were cancelled around region.
Last Updated : 14 April 2024, 11:52 IST
Last Updated : 14 April 2024, 11:52 IST

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Jerusalem/Dubai/Washington: Iran warned Israel and the United States on Sunday of a "much larger response" if there is any retaliation for its mass drone and missile attack on Israeli territory overnight, as Israel said "the campaign is not over yet".

The threat of open warfare erupting between the arch Middle East foes and dragging in the United States has put the region on edge as Washington said America did not seek conflict with Iran but would not hesitate to protect its forces and Israel.

Iran launched the attack over a suspected Israeli strike on its consulate in Syria on April 1 that killed top Revolutionary Guards commanders and followed months of clashes between Israel and Iran's regional allies, triggered by the war in Gaza.

However, the attack from hundreds of missiles and drones, mostly launched from inside Iran, caused only modest damage in Israel as most were shot down with the help of the US, Britain and Jordan.

An Air Force base in southern Israel was hit, but continued to operate as normal and a 7-year old child was seriously hurt by shrapnel. There were no other reports of serious damage.

"We intercepted, we repelled, together we shall win," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on social media ahead of a planned 1230 GMT meeting of the war cabinet to discuss a response to the attack.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said despite thwarting the attack, the military campaign was not over and "we must be prepared for every scenario".

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

Global powers Russia, China and France, as well as Arab states Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates urged restraint.

The Islamic Republic's mission to the United Nations said its actions were aimed at punishing "Israeli crimes", but that it now "deemed the matter concluded".

Iranian army chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri warned on television that "our response will be much larger than tonight's military action if Israel retaliates against Iran" and told Washington its bases could also be attacked if it helped Israel retaliate.

US President Joe Biden said he would convene a meeting of leaders of the Group of Seven major economies on Sunday to coordinate a diplomatic response to what he called Iran's brazen attack.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said America did not seek conflict with Iran but would not hesitate to act to protect U.S. forces and support the defence of Israel.

The UN Security Council was set to meet at 4 pm ET (2000 GMT) on Sunday after Israel requested it condemn Iran's attack and designate the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organisation.

Escalation of hostilities

Analysts debated how far Iran's attack was calibrated to cause genuine devastation in Israel, or to save face at home after vows of revenge while avoiding a major new war.

"I think the Iranians took into consideration the fact that Israel has a very, very strong multi-layer anti-missile system and they probably took into consideration that there will not be too many casualties," said Sima Shine, a former senior Mossad official at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

But if Iran was hoping for a muted response, like with its missile attacks on US forces in Iraq after the killing of Guards commander Qassem Soleimani in 2020, she warned "I don't think Israel sees it this way".

On Saturday Iran's Revolutionary Guards seized an Israel-linked cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most important energy shipping routes, underscoring the risks to the world economy of a wider conflict.

Some fights were suspended in countries across the region and share prices fell in stock markets in Israel and Gulf states.

The war in Gaza, which Israel invaded after an attack by Iran-backed Hamas on Oct. 7, has ratcheted up tensions in the region, spreading to fronts with Iran-aligned groups in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

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

Drones were also reportedly launched against Israel by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group, which has attacked shipping lanes in and around the Red Sea to show solidarity with Hamas, British maritime security company Ambrey said in a statement.

Iran's Fars news agency quoted a source as saying Tehran was closely watching Jordan, which might become the next target in case of any moves in support of Israel.

The Oct 7 attack in which 1,200 Israelis were killed and 253 taken hostage, along with internal discontent with the government and international pressure over the war in Gaza, form the backdrop to Netanyahu's decisions over a response.

The Israeli prime minister has for years advocated a tough military line against Iran, pushing the United States for harder action over Tehran's nuclear programme and its backing for Hezbollah, Hamas and other groups in the region.

In Jerusalem on Sunday, Israelis described their fear during the attack, when sirens wailed and the night sky was shaken by blasts, but differed on how the country should respond.

"I think we've been given license to respond now. I mean it was a major attack from Iran... I imagine Israel will respond and may be over quickly and get back to normal life," said Jeremy Smith, 60.

In Iran, state television showed small gatherings in several cities celebrating the attack, but in private some Iranians were worried about Israel's response.

"Iran gave Netanyahu a golden opportunity to attack our country. But we, the people of Iran, will bear the brunt of this conflict," said Shima, a 29-year-old nurse, from Tehran.

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Published 14 April 2024, 11:52 IST

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