Israel fights off massive Iran drone, missile attack

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Sunday, 14th April 2024.

Israel’s military have fought off a massive Iranian drone and missile attack – downing more than 200 weapons launched by the hostile state – with the help of British and American ace pilots. Israel’s sophisticated Iron Dome and other defences were seen intercepting drones and missiles, including on parts of the disputed West Bank region. Air raid sirens were sounded across Israel to warn civilians of the threat from above after the Israel Defence Force (IDF) warned of the incoming assault at 11pm local time (10pm Malta time) on Saturday night.

Security Council to meet today

The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Sunday over Iran’s unprecedented drone and missile attack on Israel, the body’s president said. A spokesperson for Malta, which holds the rotating presidency this month, told the media Saturday evening that the Security Council was aiming for the meeting to be held at 4:00 p.m. (11 p.m. Israel time, 10 pm Malta time) Sunday after Israel requested the council condemn Iran’s attack and designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organisation.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted: “I strongly condemn the serious escalation represented by the large-scale attack launched on Israel by Iran. I call for an immediate cessation of these hostilities. Neither the region nor the world can afford another war.”

Israel’s envoy to the UN, in a letter to the Security Council president Marisa Frazer, called Iran’s air assault a “flagrant violation of Israel’s sovereignty”. “Today, Iran has launched a direct attack from within its territory of more than 200 [drones], cruise missiles and ballistic missiles towards Israel,” Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan wrote. “The attack is a severe and dangerous escalation.” In a post on X, he also called the Iranian attack “a serious threat to global peace and security and I expect the council to use every means to take concrete action against Iran.” An Israeli official vowed a “significant response” to the direct attack by Iran, Reuters news agency reported.

The Iranian Mission to the United Nations said on X: “Conducted on the strength of Article 51 of the UN Charter pertaining to legitimate defence, Iran’s military action was in response to the Zionist regime’s aggression against our diplomatic premises in Damascus. 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!” The Iranian attack has been widely condemned by allies of Israel and other world leaders.

Netanyahu addesses nation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Israeli citizens in a video on Saturday night, saying, “In recent years, and even more so in recent weeks, Israel has been preparing for the possibility of a direct attack from Iran. Our defence systems are deployed, we are prepared for any scenario, both in defence and attack. The State of Israel is strong, the IDF is strong, the public is strong.” In anticipation of the attack, earlier Saturday, the Israel Home Front Command issued guidelines limiting gathering to a maximum of 1,000 people. All schools were closed through at least tomorrow, Monday. People were advised to remain near safe rooms and shelters (Ths advice has now been lifeted). Netanyahu spoke by phone with US President Joe Biden early Sunday, after wrapping up security cabinet and war cabinet meetings at the IDF’s Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv. The conversation lasted for around 25 minutes, according to Israeli television.

‘US won’t back Israeli counter-attack’ – reports

US President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the US will not aid any Israeli counterattack on Iran, US media report, citing senior administration officials. Axios and CNN report that message was passed during a phone call between the pair. Axios reports that Biden told Netyanyahu the US will oppose any Israeli counterattack. CNN reports that Biden said the US will not take part in any such counter-action.

“Israel demonstrated a remarkable capacity to defend against and defeat even unprecedented attacks – sending a clear message to its foes that they cannot effectively threaten the security of Israel,” Biden’s office says in a statement describing his call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden says he and other Western leaders will “coordinate a united diplomatic response” to Iran’s attack, indicating that a military response is not currently on the table. The statement says the attack on Israel was only on military facilities.

Biden convenes G7

President Joe Biden will meet with G7 leaders later in the day to “coordinate a unified diplomatic response to Iran’s brazen attack” on Israel. In a note, Biden re-affirmed US support for the security of the Jewish state is unshakable, condemning “in the harshest terms” Tehran’s “unprecedented” attack.

Iranians gather to cheer on attack against Israel

Iranians took to the streets to celebrate the attack on Israel, even as others wait in long lines for gas ahead of what is expected to be a harsh Israeli response to the barrage. “Death to Israel!” and “Death to America!” demonstrators chane in Tehran’s Palestine Square, after gathering shortly after the Revolutionary Guards announced the launch of Operation Honest Promise. A mural saying “The next slap is fiercer” has been unveiled in the square where a huge banner has hung for days calling, in Hebrew, for Israelis to “take shelter”. Demonstrators waved Iranian and Palestinian national flags alongside banners reading “God’s victory is near”. A large crowd of demonstrators also gathered outside the British embassy in Tehran. Supporters of the retaliatory attack also demonstrated in Iran’s third largest city Isfahan, where Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, one of the generals killed in the Damascus strike, is buried. Demonstrators also gathered near the grave in the southern city of Kerman of prominent Guards commander Qasem Soleimani, who was killed in a 2020 US drone strike in Baghdad. Anticipation of conflict with Israel had gripped Iran ever since the April 1 strike on its consulate.

Explosions and sirens riverbate all over Israel

The Jewish Press reports Iranian ballistic missiles were intercepted all over Israel on Sunday morning. Missile alerts and explosions were heard over Jerusalem, Gush Etzion, the Negev, including Dimona, the Dead Sea, the Shomron and the Golan, as a wave of Iranian missiles reached Israel and were intercepted by the various Israeli missile defence systems. Channel 12 reports that the Israeli cabinet approved a powerful response on Iranian soil. Despite all the rockets aimed at Jerusalem, none hit the Dome of the Rock, this time. Altogether, there were around 750 alerts around the country. According to Channel 14, 99 per cent of the Iranian rockets were intercepted. The IDF launched some 200 intercept rockets. According to Israeli officials, the drones were not launched only from Iran, but also from other countries, including Yemen and Iraq. Rockets fired by Hezbollah militants in Lebanon were also fired into northern Israel during the attack. An IDF spokesperson has confirmed that Israelis are no longer required to stay near bomb shelters – as the military gives the all-clear to civilians. The Israeli army had ordered residents of the Golan Heights in the north and Nevatim, Dimona and Eilat in the south to stay close to a protected space – such as a shelter, stairwell or inner room –until further notice.

An IDF base in the Negev was hit and lightly damaged. Yemen-based Houthis have also claimed to have shot ‘dozens’ of rockets towards an IDF base in the north-east of Israel. It is not currently known if the Houthi attacks are linked to Iran’s salvo.

The Israel Defence Forces had begun intercepting drones over Syria and Jordan, The Times of Israel reports. The strike marks the first time Iran has attacked Israel directly without the use of proxies. The IDF credited the US military and regional allies in creating an aerial umbrella to coordinate the defence. “Live update: IDF tracking more than 100 drones already heading to Israel from Iran,” The Times headline screamed on its X account along with a screenshot image. The Israeli military radio later reported that over 100 drones had been intercepted outside Israeli territory with the help of the US and Britain. Israeli officials told the New York Times that Iranian drones and missiles are targeting the Golan Heights and air bases in the Negev in southern Israel. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards, also called ‘Pasdaran’, said the operation was “part of Iran’s punishment of the illegitimate and criminal regime, through the operation called ‘Vadeh Sadegh’ (True Promise). The details of the Iranian attack will be published shortly,” it said in a statement, quoted by Tasnim news agency. Tehran holds Israel responsible for the April 1 attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus that killed two generals, and the US military believes Israel carried out the attack. Israel has made no comment on it.

Iran launched drones toward Israel late Saturday, officials from both countries confirmed. According to initial reports, Iran’s defence minister has issued a warning to neighbouring countries that any that allow Israel to use their airspace to defend against the attack would be targeted themselves. Israel had been preparing for the Iranian assault for the last several days. On Thursday, Gen. Erik Kurilla, commander of US Central Command, travelled to Israel to meet with Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and other senior IDF officials to coordinate the defence.

In a statement on Saturday evening, Israel Defence Forces said they were on high alert and constantly monitoring the operational situation. “The IDF Aerial Defence Array is on high alert, along with IAF fighter jets and Israeli Navy vessels that are on a defence mission in Israeli airspace. The IDF is monitoring all targets.” No further details on the assault were immediately provided. Israeli officials told CBS News it could be many hours before the drones reach Israeli airspace.

Iran seizes Israeli-linked ship

Tensions in the region, however, continue to rise. On Saturday, commandos from special forces unit of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard seized an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz. The US government called on Iran to release the vessel and its international crew immediately. “Seizing a civilian vessel without provocation is a blatant violation of international law,” said National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson. “It must be condemned unequivocally, and we will work with our partners to hold Iran to account for its actions.” All US embassies in the Middle East were put on high alert and required to hold emergency action committee meetings. Diplomats in Lebanon and Israel were specifically told not to travel to certain areas within those countries. Earlier in the day Lebanon launched drones toward northern Israel. State media reported Jordan had closed its airspace “in light of the escalating risks in the region,” and declared a state of emergency. Israel announced they would close their airspace until 5:00 p.m. Malta time.

Israeli teen found dead in West Bank, sparking largest settler rampage

Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank went on the largest rampage against Palestinians there since the war in Gaza began, as Israel’s army said Saturday the body of a missing Israeli teen was found after he was killed in a “terrorist attack”. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the killing of the . teen, who was last seen leaving the settler outpost of Malachei Shalom early Friday to tend to livestock nearby. The sheep returned to the outpost hours later without him, reports said. Israel’s Channel 13 TV reported that 14-year-old Binyamin Achimair’s body was discovered by a drone. The broadcaster said he was not shot but did not elaborate. Prime Minister Netanyahu condemned the killing.

Tens of thousands at weekly anti-Israeli government, hostage release rallies

Tens of thousands of Israelis protested in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities around the country Saturday with demands for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip and new elections, as the anti-government movement maintained its momentum despite the threat of an imminent Iranian attack on the country. Thousands called for early elections, the removal of Prime Minister Netanyahu from office and a deal for the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Germany to send new Patriot air defence system to Ukraine

Germany will supply a US-made Patriot air defence system and air defence missiles to Ukraine at a “critical time” as Kyiv struggles to defend its energy system from Russian bombardment, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday.  “Germany will deliver an additional Patriot air defence system to Ukraine,” Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on X, a reminder that Germany is now a key backer of Ukraine with US assistance stuck in Congress. “We stand steadfast on the side of Ukraine,” Scholz said, adding that Zelenskiy had informed him in a telephone call on Saturday about “massive Russian air attacks on civilian energy infrastructure”. Zelensky said on the Telegram messaging app that he was grateful to Scholz for the decision to supply another, additional Patriot system, and missiles for existing air defence systems.

Sydney knife attacker shot dead after killing 6 in mall

An attacker who fatally knifed six people in a Sydney mall was shot dead by police in Sydney’s beachside suburb of Bondi on Saturday, police said, as hundreds fled the scene. Five of the six victims killed were women, while eight people, including a nine-month-old baby, were taken to hospital with stab wounds, New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb told a new conference. The assailant was shot by a police officer after he attacked shoppers in the busy Westfield Bondi Junction shopping centre, police said in a statement. Police at this stage do not believe the attack was terror-related, Webb said. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said there was no indication yet of the man’s motive. “This was a horrific act of violence, indiscriminately targeting innocent people going about an ordinary Saturday doing their shopping,” he told a news conference. Australia has some of the world’s toughest gun and knife laws, and attacks such as the one on Saturday are rare. Several posts on social media showed crowds fleeing the mall and police cars and emergency services rushing to the area. The mall will remain closed on Sunday while an investigation continues, police said.

Biden, Trump in virtual tie, poll reveals

US President Biden and former President Donald Trump are in a virtual tie, with Biden nearly erasing Trump’s early polling advantage, according to a new survey released Saturday by The New York Times and Siena College. The latest poll shows Trump holding just a one-point lead of 46 per cent to Biden’s 45 per cent, marking an improvement for Biden since late February, when Trump held a lead of fve percentage points over Biden, at 48 per cent to 43 per cent.

Meanwhile, Trump heads to the battleground state of Pennsylvania today for a rally and a fundraiser just days before he is set to go on trial in New York over an alleged hush money scheme. He will be closely followed by President Biden next week. With 19 electoral votes – one of the highest counts among all 50 states – and voters that swing between backing Democrats and Republicans, Pennsylvania is a top prize in the 2024 presidential election.

Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

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