Iran attack on Israel | Iran says retaliation 'concluded', warns Israel not to respond; world urges restraint

World leaders urged restraint on April 14 after Israel came under an unprecedented attack from Iranian drones and missiles that drew widespread condemnation and sparked fears of a broader conflict

Updated - April 15, 2024 04:03 pm IST

Published - April 14, 2024 03:42 pm IST - Tehran

A police officer and residents inspect the remains of a rocket booster that, according to Israeli authorities critically injured a 7-year-old girl, after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, near Arad, Israel, on April 14, 2024.

A police officer and residents inspect the remains of a rocket booster that, according to Israeli authorities critically injured a 7-year-old girl, after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, near Arad, Israel, on April 14, 2024. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Iran on April 14 urged Israel not to retaliate militarily to an attack overnight, which Tehran presented as a justified response to a deadly strike on its consulate building in Damascus.

"The matter can be deemed concluded," Iran's mission to the United Nations said in a post on social media platform X just a few hours after the start of the operation late Saturday.

Also read | Seriously concerned over escalating hostilities: India

"However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran's response will be considerably more severe," the Iranian mission warned.

Late Saturday, Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps announced that they had launched "dozens of drones and missiles" towards military sites on Israeli territory.

"Iran's military action was in response to the Zionist regime's aggression against our diplomatic premises in Damascus" earlier this month. the Iranian mission to the UN said.

The attack, according to the mission, was "conducted on the strength of Article 51 of the UN Charter pertaining to legitimate defence".

Israel's army said it had shot 99 percent of the drones and missiles with the help of the United States and other allies, declaring Iran's attack "foiled".

The Iranian army chief of staff Mohammad Bagheri said the attack has "achieved all its objectives".

Bagheri said Iran's retaliation targeted an "intelligence centre" and the air base from which Tehran says the Israeli F-35 jets took off to strike the Damascus consulate on April 1.

Also read | A look at Israel’s air-defence system that protected it from Iran’s drone and missile strike

"Both these centres were significantly destroyed and put out of order," he said, though Israel maintains that the attack only resulted in minor damage.

"There is no intention to continue this operation," he said, calling on Israel to avoid taking further action against Iran which according to Bagheri would result in a "much bigger" response.

Attack 'telegraphed'

Experts have suggested that Saturday's slow-moving drone attack was calibrated to represent a show of power but also allow some wiggle room.

"It appears that Iran telegraphed its attack on Israel to demonstrate it can strike using different capabilities, to complicate the (Israeli army's) ability to neutralise the assault but also to provide an off-ramp to pause escalation," said Nishank Motwani, senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Washington.

"Tehran can escalate if it chooses to across a range of vectors," said Motwani, including via Lebanon's Iran-backed armed group Hezbollah, sea attacks, "or hitting soft Israeli targets globally".

Over the last two weeks, the Iranian authorities had repeatedly vowed to "punish" Israel after the death of seven Guards including two generals of the Quds Force in the attack that levelled the Iranian consulate in Damascus.

Iran has blamed Israel for the attack.

In the days after the strike, Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Israel will be "slapped for that action".

Since a revolution in 1979 in Iran which toppled the US-backed Shah, Israel has been the sworn enemy of the Islamic republic.

Iran has often called for the destruction of Israel, with support of the Palestinian cause one of the pillars of the Islamic revolution.

However, until Saturday Tehran had also refrained from a direct attack on Israel.

Instead, it has backed members of the so-called "Axis of Resistance" against Israel, including Hezbollah and Yemen's Tehran-aligned Huthi rebels, since the outbreak of war in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas on October 7.

Hours before the strikes on Saturday, Iran seized an Israeli-linked container ship in the Gulf which Washington called "an act of piracy".

'Next slap will be fiercer'

During the night, Tehran also warned the United States, urging it to "stay away" from its conflict with Israel.

"Any threat by the terrorist government of America and the Zionist regime from any country will result in a reciprocal and proportionate response," the Revolutionary Guards warned in a statement early Sunday.

"If necessary", Tehran "will not hesitate to take defensive measures to protect its interests against any aggressive military action," Iran's foreign ministry said.

"The next slap will be fiercer," warned a new mural unveiled overnight in Tehran's Palestine Square, where several thousands gathered, shouting "Death to Israel" and "Death to America".

Before Tehran launched its attack, Israel warned Iran that it would suffer "the consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further".

Israel has not revealed what a potential response would look like.

An Israeli attack on Iran's territory, possibly targeting military or nuclear sites, could not be ruled out, according to experts.

As a precaution, Tehran's Mehrabad airport, which is mainly dedicated to domestic flights, will remain closed on Sunday until 12 pm (0830 GMT), according to the Mehr news agency.

Several international airlines have suspended flights over Iranian airspace.

Countries including Russia and France have also asked their citizens to avoid travelling to Iran and Israel.

World urges restraint

World leaders urged restraint on April 14 after Israel came under an unprecedented attack from Iranian drones and missiles that drew widespread condemnation and sparked fears of a broader conflict.

Iran’s overnight barrage from late on April 13 was its first-ever direct assault on Israeli territory and came in retaliation for a deadly strike on Tehran’s consulate in the Syrian capital.

It remained unclear how Israel would respond to this major escalation in the long-running covert war between the regional foes which has been further inflamed by the Gaza war raging since October 7.

Israel’s top ally the United States cautioned against an escalation after the attack that was largely foiled, with the Israeli army saying 99% of the launches had been intercepted.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “We don’t want to see this escalate. We’re not looking for a wider war with Iran.”

However, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said that “the campaign is not over yet — we must remain alert”.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned Israel against a “reckless” retaliation, saying it would face “a decisive and much stronger response”.

Iran said its drone and missile attack came in response to the April 1 air strike on Tehran’s consulate building in Damascus, an attack widely blamed on Israel.

Syria said Iran had exercised its “right to self-defence”.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Tehran had notified neighbouring states ahead of the attack, stressing its aim was “to punish the Israeli regime”.

U.N. Security Council meeting

U.S. President Joe Biden reaffirmed Washington’s “ironclad” support for Israel, while appearing to guide its staunch ally away from a military response.

Other world leaders also urged restraint, ahead of a 2000 GMT (1.30 a.m. IST) United Nations Security Council emergency meeting requested by Israel.

G7 nations were also holding a video conference to discuss the attack.

Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles towards Israel late Saturday, injuring 12 people, Israel’s military said.

One of those wounded was a seven-year-old girl near the southern town of Arad who was in intensive care.

Most of the drones and missiles were intercepted before reaching Israel, the army said, with help from the United States, Jordan, Britain and other allies.

The attack came as fighting between Israel and Hamas raged in Gaza, and the latest attempt to reach a ceasefire in the war appeared to falter.

News outlet Axios said Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington would oppose an Israeli counterattack and that he should “take the win”.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called for “calm heads to prevail,” adding that U.K. warplanes had also shot down Iranian attack drones.

NATO said it was “vital that the conflict in the Middle East does not spiral out of control”.

And Pope Francis called for “an end to any action which could fuel a spiral of violence”.

Iran’s attack ‘foiled’

Turkey’s Foreign Minister called on Iran to avoid a “new escalation”, a diplomatic source said, and France urged its citizens in Iran to leave “temporarily”.

President Abdel Latif Rashid of Iraq, Iran’s neighbour, called for a “reduction of tensions” and warned against the “spread of conflict”.

Indonesia, the Muslim world’s most populous country, said it was “deeply concerned” and urged “all parties to exercise restraint”.

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that 99% of the launches were intercepted, declaring that “the Iranian attack was foiled”.

While 170 drones and 30 cruise missiles were shot down before reaching Israel, a few of the 110 ballistic missiles did get through, the Israeli Army said.

Iran’s proxies and allies also carried out coordinated attacks on Israeli positions.

AFP correspondents heard blasts in the skies above Jerusalem early Sunday, and overnight people sought cover.

On April 14 morning, people began returning tentatively to the streets.

“The situation is really frightening because we are afraid of what happens and all of the bombing and aircraft that are coming,” said 48-year-old Jerusalem resident Ayala Salant.

The Iranian Army declared that its attack was “completed successfully”, and that it was in “self defence” after the Damascus strike which killed seven of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards including two generals.

Iran’s “Operation Honest Promise... achieved all its objectives”, armed forces chief of staff Mohammad Bagheri said.

Bagheri said the attack targeted an intelligence centre and the air base from which Tehran says the Israeli F-35 jets took off to strike the Damascus consulate.

“Both these centres were significantly destroyed,” he said, although Israel said there was only minor damage.

Analyst Nick Heras of the New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy told AFP Saturday’s attack was “all about satisfying the honour of Iran”.

“This recent escalation in the Middle East is about the treacherous state of US and Iran relations, in which Israel is just one arena of conflict,” he said.

Hezbollah rocket fire

Hundreds of Iranians in Tehran’s Palestine Square waved Iranian and Palestinian flags in support of Iran’s military action.

Israel, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon all said they had reopened their airspace after suspending air traffic during the attack.

Jordan said it intercepted “flying objects” in its airspace during the attack.

Iran’s allies in the region joined the attack, with Yemen’s Tehran-backed Huthi rebels also launching drones at Israel, security agency Ambrey said.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement said it had fired rockets at Israeli positions in the annexed Golan Heights around the same time, and another barrage hours later.

An Israeli strike destroyed a building used by Hezbollah in east Lebanon on April 14, Israeli and Lebanese sources said.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations warned Washington to keep out of its conflict with Israel.

It added on X that “the matter can be deemed concluded”.

“However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe.”

Before Tehran attacked, Israel’s military warned Iran it would suffer the “consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further”.

Iran had earlier seized an Israeli-linked container vessel in the Gulf, putting the whole region on alert.

Meanwhile, fighting in Gaza continued.

The war began with an unprecedented October 7 attack by Hamas against Israel, resulting in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,729 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Late Saturday, Hamas said it had submitted its response to a truce plan presented by US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators at talks that started in Cairo on April 7.

Hamas said it was sticking to its previous demands, insisting on “a permanent ceasefire” and the “withdrawal of the (Israeli) occupation army from the entire Gaza Strip”.

Israel’s Mossad spy agency called this a rejection of the proposal, accusing Hamas of “continuing to exploit the tension with Iran” and aiming for “a general escalation in the region”.

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