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Sirens and explosions ring out across Israel after Iran launches drone attack

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Explosions are seen in the sky over the capital, following the Iranian attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 14, 2024.

Mostafa Alkharouf | Anadolu | Getty Images

Iran launched a series of explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel on Saturday evening in its first-ever direct attack on Israeli territory, risking a major escalation as the United States pledged “ironclad” support to Israel.

Sirens wailed and Reuters journalists in Israel said they heard distant thuds and bangs from what local media called aerial interceptions of explosive drones. Ambulance services said there was no immediate news of any casualties.

The Israeli military said more than 100 drones had been launched from Iran, with security sources in Iraq and Jordan reporting dozens of overflights and U.S. officials saying the U.S. military had shot down some.

Israel’s Channel 12 television quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying there would be a “significant response” to the attack.

Iran’s official news agency cited a source as saying its army had also launched a wave of ballistic missiles. The Israeli military also said missiles had been fired, but there were no immediate reports of strikes in Israel.

Iran has vowed to retaliate for what it called an Israeli strike on its Damascus consulate on April 1 that killed seven Guard officers, including two senior commanders, and said the strike was punishment for “Israeli crimes”. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its responsibility for the consulate attack.

“If the Israeli regime makes another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably harsher,” Iran’s mission to the United Nations said, warning the United States to “stay away.” However, he also said that Iran now “considers the matter settled.”

US President Joe Biden, who warned Iran of an attack on Friday, cut short his visit to his home state of Delaware to meet with national security advisers in the White House Situation Room , said an official. He pledged to stand with Israel.

The war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, now in its seventh month, has stoked tensions in the region, spreading to fronts with Lebanon and Syria and drawing long-range fire on Israeli targets as well. far as Yemen and Iraq.

British maritime security company Ambrey said in a statement that drones were also believed to have been launched against Israel by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group.

These clashes now threaten to turn into an open and direct conflict pitting Iran and its regional allies against Israel and its main supporter the United States, with regional power Egypt calling for “utmost restraint”.

US and British military aircraft were involved in shooting down some Israel-bound drones over the Iraq-Syria border area, Channel 12 reported. Three U.S. officials said the U.S. military had shot down drones, without specifying how many.

Escalation

“This is a serious and dangerous escalation. Our defensive and offensive capabilities are at the highest level of preparedness ahead of this large-scale attack by Iran,” Israeli military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose official plane took off shortly after the attack began, convened the war cabinet at a military headquarters in Tel Aviv, his office said.

The Israeli military said sirens would sound in all threatened areas and that its defenses were ready to deal with the drones, which it described as “explosive.”

“We are used to having about 20 seconds to get to shelters when missiles arrive. Here the warning comes hours in advance. This naturally increases the level of anxiety among the Israeli public,” said Nir Dvori, Channel 12 correspondent. social networks.

Explosions are seen in the sky over the capital, following the Iranian attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 14, 2024.

Mostafa Alkharouf | Anadolu | Getty Images

The Israeli military has asked residents of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to stay near bomb shelters, putting the area on hold for possible impact from drone strikes.

Israel and Lebanon announced the closure of their airspace on Saturday evening. Jordan, located between Iran and Israel, has prepared its air defenses to intercept any drone or missile that violates its territory, two regional security sources said.

Residents of several Jordanian towns reported hearing heavy aerial activity.

Iran’s ally Syria said it was putting its ground-to-air defense systems around the capital and its main bases on high alert, military sources said.

Conviction

The European Union, Britain, France, Mexico, Czechia, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands have all condemned the Iranian attack.

Israel has been bracing for an Iranian response to the Damascus consulate strike since last week, when Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Israel “must and will be punished” for an operation he described as equivalent to that on Iranian soil.

Biden said Friday that his only message to Iran was “Don’t do it,” but added that “we are dedicated to the defense of Israel.”

Iran’s main ally in the region, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah has exchanged fire with Israel since the start of the war in Gaza on October 7, and declared on Sunday morning that it had fired rockets at an Israeli base.

Earlier on Saturday, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported that a guards helicopter boarded and took the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries into Iranian waters.

MSC, which operates the Aries, confirmed that Iran had seized the ship and said it was working “with the relevant authorities” for its safe return and the well-being of its 25 crew members.

MSC is leasing the Aries from Gortal Shipping, a subsidiary of Zodiac Maritime, Zodiac said in a statement, adding that MSC was responsible for all activities on the vessel. Zodiac is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused Iran of piracy.

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