Intel chief: Worst may not be behind us; 'complex days ahead'

Amid retaliation threats from Iran, IDF cancels home leave for all combat troops

Army braces for possible missile attacks, including directly from Iran; scrambled GPS systems - linked to IDF measures against attack - tell drivers in central Israel they're in Beirut

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him meeting with politicians and government officials in Tehran on April 3, 2024. (KHAMENEI.IR / AFP)

With Iran vowing to retaliate for a strike earlier this week on one of its consular buildings in Damascus that it blames on Israel, the Israel Defense Forces on Thursday said it had halted home leave for all combat troops following a fresh assessment.

“The IDF is at war and the issue of the deployment of forces is constantly reviewed as needed,” the military noted in its announcement.

Possible scenarios for which the IDF is understood to be preparing include missile and drone attacks by Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen — all of which have been carried out amid the ongoing Gaza war — and ballistic missile attacks directly from Iran, a situation that Israel has not yet faced. And yet, Israeli officials believe the country’s air defense systems will be able to handle the threat.

The head of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate said Thursday that Israel was facing a particularly difficult period: “I have told you more than once that it is not certain that the worst is behind us, and we have complex days ahead of us,” Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva told subordinate officers in remarks released by the IDF.

While Israel has not claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack, which killed Iran’s top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps general in Syria along with his deputy and five other IRGC officers, Tehran has blamed Jerusalem and vowed revenge. The IRGC is a US-designated terror group.

On Wednesday night, the IDF said it was bolstering air defenses and calling up reservists, following an assessment.

Instructions to the public issued by the Home Front Command amid the war against Hamas in Gaza remained unchanged.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari in a post on X said Israeli civilians do not need to “buy generators, stock up on food or withdraw money from ATMs.”

“The instructions of the Home Front Command remained unchanged,” he said. “As we have done until today, we will immediately update on any change, in an official and orderly manner,” Hagari added.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said earlier Wednesday that Israel was “increasing preparedness” in the face of threats from across the Middle East. Gallant said the defense establishment is “expanding our operations against Hezbollah, against other bodies that threaten us,” and reiterated that Israel “strikes our enemies all over the Middle East.”

Meanwhile, residents of central Israel reported widespread disruptions to navigation apps such as Google Maps, Waze, and other systems that use global positioning system (GPS), with many Tel Aviv-area motorists being shown that they were in Beirut on Thursday.

Apart from the navigation problems, delivery and transport apps like Wolt and Gett also experienced disruptions and warned customers of delays.

A man holds his phone showing his location in Beirut on the Google Maps app, in Jerusalem, April 4, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

GPS disruptions have been happening for months in northern Israel or areas close to Gaza, but have been less common in central Israel. The GPS signal disruptions have been part of the IDF’s efforts to prevent attacks on Israel.

Both Iran and its proxy Hezbollah have vowed that Israel will not go unpunished for the Monday attack on a consular building next to Iran’s embassy in Damascus, which killed Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ most senior official in Syria, along with his deputy, five other IRGC officers, and at least one member of the Hezbollah terror group.

Zahedi was reportedly responsible for the IRGC’s operations in Syria and Lebanon, for Iranian militias there, and for ties with Hezbollah, and was thus the most senior commander of Iranian forces in the two countries.

Since October 8, Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the border on a near-daily basis. So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in eight civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 10 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 267 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 50 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and at least 60 civilians, three of whom were journalists, have been killed.

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