Iran escalates conflict, attacking Israel; US forces help Israel to intercept Iranian projectiles

Demonstrators wave Iran's flag and Palestinian flags as they gather at Palestine Square in Tehran, Iran, on April 14, 2024, after Iran launched a drone and missile attack on Israel. [VOA]

 Iran has launched an aerial attack on Israel from Iranian territory, marking a major escalation in the conflict between the rival regional powers and prompting action by U.S. forces in support of Israel.

Iran’s top military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, issued a predawn statement Sunday, saying that it launched missiles and drones from Iranian territory toward Israel. It said the attack was in retaliation for what Iranian officials say was an Israeli strike that killed several senior Iranian military commanders in Damascus on April 1. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the April 1 strike.

Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari said Sunday that Iran launched more than 300 projectiles toward Israel, including launches from Yemen and Iraq, with 99% intercepted by Israeli air defences outside of Israeli airspace. The Israel Airports Authority also announced early Sunday that as of 7:30 a.m., Israeli airspace had reopened. It said flight schedules in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport were subject to change.

Videos posted on social media showed some of the projectiles being intercepted over central and southern Israel and others hitting the ground and exploding as sirens wailed.

Hagari also was quoted as saying one impact wounded a young girl in the southern Negev desert.

An IDF statement posted to the X platform said several other impacts caused minor damage to infrastructure at an IDF base in southern Israel.

In a message sent to VOA, Israeli reserves Brig. Gen. Jacob Nagel, a former national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli forces were assisted by their U.S., British, Jordanian and Saudi allies in intercepting the Iranian projectiles.

A U.S. military official confirmed to VOA that U.S. forces "continue to shoot down Iranian-launched drones targeting Israel."

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant briefed U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about Israel’s defensive responses to the Iranian attacks, according to a statement from Gallant’s office. It said Gallant emphasized that the Israeli defence establishment is "prepared for any further attempts to attack" the country.

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Netanyahu late Saturday. The official said Biden’s national security team "will continue to work with partners in the region to prevent further escalation."

As the Iranian assault began, Netanyahu said in a televised message that Israel would defend itself "against any threat and will do so level-headedly and with determination."

At around the same time, White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson issued a statement saying the United States will "stand with the people of Israel and support their defence against these threats from Iran."

"This attack is likely to unfold over several hours. President Biden has been clear: our support for Israel's security is ironclad," Watson said.

Netanyahu acknowledged that support in his statement, saying, "We appreciate the U.S. standing alongside Israel, as well as the support of Britain, France and many other countries."

In a post on the X platform, Iran’s U.N. mission in New York said the aerial attack on Israel marks the conclusion of Tehran’s military action.

It added: "Should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe. It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, from which the U.S. MUST STAY AWAY!"

In an updated statement posted later, the IRGC warned that any U.S. participation in harming the interests of Iran would be met with a "decisive and remorseful response" by Iranian forces.

Nagel, a senior fellow with the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the Iranian attack, the first of its kind in decades of hostility between Iran and Israel, likely will be a turning point in the conflict.

"Probably we are going to see a regional confrontation because it is not only Iran against Israel but Iran against the free world," he said.


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