Israel mulls response after US-led alliance repels Iranian attack

TEL AVIV — For several hours Saturday evening, as Iranian missiles slammed into the sky, millions of people in Israel and across a restive region held their breath.

On Sunday morning, Israelis woke up to find their country relatively unscathed, fortified by broad global support after months of international isolation. The nightmare scenario that leaders here had long warned about — a direct attack by Iran — provided a public showcase of the regional coalition and the high-tech systems built to repel it.

The five-hour assault, in retaliation for a deadly Israeli strike on an Iranian diplomatic facility in Damascus, Syria, was massive, involving hundreds of killer drones and guided missiles and supporting fire from at least some of the regional proxies of Iran. But it also came with some warning and seemed calibrated to avoid a wider war. Israel has leveraged its sophisticated air defense technology and network of anti-Iranian allies, giving its forces operational freedom over large swathes of Middle Eastern airspace. Ultimately, most of the interceptions took place outside Israeli territory, the army said.

Even Jordan, one of the strongest public critics of Israel’s war in Gaza, closed its airspace and “contributed to the process of interceptions,” allowing Israel and its allies to shoot down 99 percent of Iran’s munitions. said Yoel Guzansky, a former official at Israel’s National Security Council and now a senior fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies.

“Never in the history of warfare has there been such an operation, with so much international coordination, all under Centcom, and missiles coming from so many places at once, not just Iran” – but also rockets from Hezbollah, Lebanon and Drones and cruise missiles were fired from Yemen and Iraq, Guzansky said.

The U.S.-led regional partnership “has proven itself in real time,” Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesman, said Sunday morning. “It showed he was capable of confronting Iran.”

In a statement Saturday evening, President Biden highlighted the movement of U.S. ballistic missile defense aircraft and destroyers to the region over the past week, which “helped Israel destroy nearly all incoming drones and missiles.” He also said he would bring together Group of Seven leaders on Sunday “to coordinate a united diplomatic response to Iran’s brazen attack.”

Even before the missiles landed, Iranian leaders made it clear that, in their minds, the scores were settled. ‘The matter can be considered closed,’ says country’s mission to the United Nations job Saturday evening, but he added a warning: If Israel “made another mistake, Iran’s response would be considerably more severe.” On Sunday, Israel said the situation was “ongoing”: the question was how – and where – it would respond.

The Israeli military said the firing of several ballistic missiles caused minor damage to the Nevatim military airbase in southern Israel. On Sunday, the Israel Defense Forces released images of an F-35 returning to base. A young girl from a southern Bedouin town has been hospitalized with serious injuries from shrapnel, her family said.

But Israel and its allies considered the event a “victory,” said Michael Horowitz, head of intelligence at risk consultancy group Le Beck International, adding that the country had managed to restore some international legitimacy while avoiding any serious damage on the ground.

“The outcome matters… but so does the intent, and the intent was very clear: not a symbolic attack designed to fail, but a sustained assault designed to actually hit its targets inside Israel,” Horowitz said .

Under the leadership of the United States, Hagari said, the Israeli military has intensified its collaboration with Britain and France over the past six months, as well as with other states in the region which he said that he was not at liberty to reveal the names – likely a reference to Jordan and other Arab countries have quietly strengthened security ties with Israel, even as they try to contain growing public anger in their country in the face of the war in Gaza.

The Iranian attack included 170 drones, 120 ballistic missiles and 30 cruise missiles, according to the IDF. Israel responded with the Arrow, an anti-ballistic missile system developed by the United States and Israel, and David’s Sling, a medium- and long-range air defense system set up to repel Iranian and Syrian missiles, according to Jonathan Conricus. , senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and former IDF spokesperson.

The success of Israeli air defense gives the government time to formulate an “intelligent, long-term strategy” rather than reacting out of “anger and duress,” Conricus said.

“We intercepted. We countered. Together we will win,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted on X on Sunday morning, a statement that struck analysts both for its brevity and its measured tone.

“The prime minister actually made a very succinct statement, and he doesn’t usually do that,” said Miri Eisin, a former senior Israeli army intelligence officer. “He didn’t say, ‘Now we’re going to destroy Iran.'”

But there remains uncertainty over whether Netanyahu can resist pressure from his far-right coalition partners to step up action against Tehran.

“You have Israel again in favor of other nations. Diplomatically, it could work well for Netanyahu if he is able to leverage it,” said an Israeli familiar with discussions close to the prime minister, speaking on condition of anonymity to share private deliberations. “On the other hand, within his cabinet, if he doesn’t go after Iran, he’ll get in trouble with some people.”

The United States and other allies who played a role in Sunday’s defensive operation are pressing for restraint, the person said: “The Americans and everyone else are saying, ‘It happened, no one no damage was done, we were there for you.’ Now it’s your turn to be there for us.

Within hours, Israel appeared to largely regain its position within the world community, a position that had been severely eroded by the civilian casualty toll of its war against Hamas in Gaza and its restrictions on the delivery of aid. aid, which has sidelined the north of the country. the enclave on the verge of famine.

Noam Tibon, a retired Israeli military general, said the Iranian attack allowed Israel to recover on two fronts: in Gaza, where it was under growing domestic and international pressure to agree to a ceasefire. fire and an agreement to release the hostages still held. by Hamas, and on its northern border with Lebanon, where Israel has exchanged near-daily fire with Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militant group and political party, and where hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes.

“It was the first time in this war that Israel won a clear victory,” Tibon said. “The West is helping us, standing with us, and if Israel is not careful, it will reverse all this, just like it did in Gaza. »

Eisin said Israel’s military performance overnight was redemptive after the intelligence and security failures of October 7, when the army failed to predict the Hamas-led attack and was slow to respond to the carnage unfolding in southern Israel.

In Saturday’s attack, “almost nothing hit the ground, and it’s a success that reinforces our sense of security,” she said. “We need it, because it’s not over yet.”


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