Iran attacks Israel with over 300 drones, missiles: What you need to know | Explainer News


Iran has launched a massive aerial attack on Israel, two weeks after a deadly strike on its consulate in Syria.

Iran unleashed a barrage of missiles and drones on Saturday and during the early hours of Sunday, targeting Israel in retaliation for last week’s suspected Israeli strike on its consulate in Damascus that killed 13 people.

Here is what happened, and what analysts say could happen next.

What happened in Israel and when?

  • Iran launched a massive aerial attack on Israel, two weeks after a suspected Israeli strike on its consulate in Syria. This marks the first-ever direct attack by Iran on Israeli territory from Iranian soil. Iran called the attack Operation True Promise.
  • The attack began on Saturday night around 20:00 GMT. It lasted approximately five hours, according to US officials.
  • During the attack, explosions were heard in cities across Israel, including Tel Aviv. The explosions were also heard in Jerusalem, and air raid sirens sounded in more than 720 locations as Israeli forces sought to shoot down the projectiles.
  • Israel’s chief military spokesman, Daniel Hagari, said Iran’s attack involved more than 120 ballistic missiles, 170 drones, and more than 30 cruise missiles, according to a report by The Associated Press news agency.
  • The Israeli military also said that the vast majority of the projectiles were intercepted outside the country’s borders, with help from the United States, the United Kingdom and France. Jordan also shot down some of the missiles aimed at Israel as they were flying through Jordanian airspace.
  • Israel’s military added that a “small number of hits were identified”. In a base located in southern Israel, “minor damage occurred to the infrastructure”.
  • A seven-year-old girl was also severely injured by missile fragments, while other patients sustained minor injuries and some were treated for anxiety.
  • US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Saturday that the US also intercepted “dozens” of missiles and drones launched at Israel from Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Where exactly did the attacks take place?

  • During the attack, Israel’s military ordered residents in the northern Israeli-occupied Golan Heights – near the Syrian and Lebanese borders – and in the southern cities of Nevatim, Dimona and Eilat to remain near bomb shelters.
  • Nevatim is the site of an Israeli airbase, while Dimona has a nuclear reactor on the outskirts. Eilat is Israel’s southern Red Sea port, which has suffered from a sharp decline in operations because of repeated attacks by Yemen’s Houthis on ships passing through the waterway.

INTERACTIVE Iran fires drones and missiles at Israel (1)-1713087132

Why did Iran attack Israel?

  • Iran’s attack is a retaliation for a suspected Israeli strike that killed an Iranian military commander, Major-General Mohammad Reza Zahed, in Damascus on April 1. He was killed along with six other Iranian nationals, including another general. At least six Syrian citizens were also killed.
  • “It seems that Iranian leaders are determined to take action, but also [be] seen to take action,” David Des Roches, an associate professor at the National Defense University in Washington, DC, told Al Jazeera.
  • “What that indicates to me is that there are considerations of pride and prestige that are divorced from strategy and tactical utility that may indicate a more dangerous era than we thought,” he added.
  • Hezbollah, a Lebanese armed group backed by Iran, and the Israeli military have been trading attacks across the Lebanon-Israel border since October 8, the day after the Hamas-led attack in southern Israel and Israel’s brutal retaliation on the besieged Gaza Strip. Since then, more than 330 people in Lebanon have been killed in Israeli attacks, including at least 66 civilians. Hezbollah attacks have killed at least 18 people on the Israeli side, 12 soldiers and six civilians.
  • On Saturday, Iranian state media announced that the the country’s armed forced had seized an Israel-linked container ship near the Strait of Hormuz.
INTERACTIVE Irans ballistic and cruise missiles-1713098689
(Al Jazeera)

What is the Israeli government saying?

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country “will win”, in a tweet after the attacks. Earlier, he spoke to the nation, stating that the military was prepared for any scenario.  

  • “Citizens of Israel, in recent years, and especially in recent weeks, Israel has been preparing for a direct attack by Iran,” Netanyahu said.
  • “Our defensive systems are deployed; we are ready for any scenario, both defensively and offensively. The State of Israel is strong. The [Israeli army] is strong. The public is strong.” He also thanked his allies, including the US and UK, for “standing alongside” Israel.
  • “We have determined a clear principle: Whoever harms us, we will harm them. We will defend ourselves against any threat and will do so level-headedly and with determination,” he added.
  • After the attack was over, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that the attack had been “blocked”.
  • “The Iranian attack was blocked in the most impressive way, together with our partners, the Americans and others… The entire world saw today who is Iran – a country of terror,” Gallant added.

What is the Iranian government saying?

  • Iran warned Israel of any response.  The Iranian armed forces chief of staff, Major-General Mohammad Bagheri, told state TV that if Israel retaliates, Iran’s response would be “much larger” than the overnight bombardment, according to a Reuters report.
  • Iran also warned Washington that backing Israeli retaliation would lead to the targeting of US bases.

  • Earlier, Iran’s mission to the UN cited the UN Charter provision for self-defence, under Article 51, and said that the country considered “the matter … concluded”, its permanent mission at the United Nations said on X.

  • “The matter can be deemed concluded. However, 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 US MUST STAY AWAY!”
  • President Ebrahim Raisi issued a statement hailing the “brave men” of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who “taught a lesson to the Zionist regime”.

What is the latest on the ground?

  • There has been a downgrading of the Home Front Command’s alert level for Israelis around the country, telling them they no longer have to be around shelters. The Home Front Command said the immediate danger had passed.
  • In Tehran, hundreds of supporters of the government gathered in the middle of the night to celebrate the strikes according to state media. They gathered at Palestine Square and outside the UK embassy.
  • Mehrabad airport in Tehran, along with airports in various other Iranian cities, have cancelled domestic flights until Monday morning, the semiofficial Mehr News Agency reported. The Israel Airports Authority said the country reopened its airspace as of 7:30am (04:30 GMT).
  • On Sunday, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon reopened their airspace after having closed it late on Saturday.
  • Airlines based in the United Arab Emirates, including Emirates, Etihad Airways and flydubai, cancelled some flights and rerouted others following Iran’s attacks. Swiss International Air Lines also suspended flights to and from Tel Aviv.
  • Russia’s Aeroflot announced that it had diverted its Saturday evening flight from Moscow to Tehran. The flight instead landed in Makhachkala in Russia’s Dagestan region.
Iranian demonstrators react after the IRGC attack on Israel, during an anti-Israeli gathering in front of the British Embassy in Tehran, Iran, April 14
Iranian demonstrators react after the IRGC attack on Israel, during an anti-Israeli gathering in front of the British embassy in Tehran [West Asia News Agency via Reuters]

What could come next for Iran, Israel and the region?

  • “Analysts over the last couple of hours have been saying that Iran’s attack appears carefully calibrated, to make a point but not to cause so much damage that it escalates the situation into a wider conflict,” Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands said, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem.
  • “The Israeli war cabinet has been authorised to respond in some way to Iran,” Challands said.
  • According to Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bays, the US seemed to have had “some contact with Iran before this attack took place. Some of this may well have been choreographed to a degree”.
  • “The Biden administration, ultimately it has lots of tools because the US is the main supplier of funds and weapons to Israel. President Biden hasn’t acted till now in a strong way over the war on Gaza, but remember what’s at stake here. Because if we do have an all-out war between Iran and Israel that will cause chaos in this region, and it will cause chaos beyond the Middle East,” Bays said.
  • “The Americans are trying to praise Israel but behind the scenes, I’m sure the Biden administration … was not at all happy about the Iranian consulate attack in Damascus, because it knows Iran really had no alternative but to come up with some sort of response,” he added.

What are the international reactions so far?

  • The aerial assault has drawn condemnation from Israel’s allies and warnings that it risked further escalation in the Middle East.
  • President Joe Biden has made clear that the US will not participate in any offensive operations against Iran, according to a senior administration official. But they reiterated their support for Israel.
  • “We do not seek conflict with Iran, but we will not hesitate to act to protect our forces and support the defence of Israel,” US Defense Secretary Austin said.
  • The UN Security Council (UNSC) is also expected to hold an emergency meeting at 4pm New York time (20:00 GMT) on Sunday, Malta, the council’s current president, said. Israel’s permanent representative to the UN Gilad Erdan called Iran’s attack a “severe and dangerous escalation”.
  • Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed concern over the “military escalation” in the region and called for restraint from all parties.
  • China also said it was deeply concerned about escalation adding that it was a “spillover of the Gaza conflict” and a ceasefire should be implemented without delay.
  • India also expressed concern and called for an “immediate de-escalation, exercise of restraint, [and] stepping back from violence and return to the path of democracy.” The Ministry of External Affairs also stated that the embassies in the region were in close contact with the Indian community.
  • The Group of Seven (G7) will hold a video conference on Sunday. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose country currently holds the G7 rotating presidency, said on X: “We express strong concern about a further destabilisation of the region and continue to work to avoid it.”

For more global reactions, follow our coverage here.

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