From proxies to gas pumps, Israel’s retaliation could hit Iran in myriad ways

Analysts believe any Israeli response will seek to avoid civilian casualties, but could go after sensitive IRGC facilities or come via hack attack

This handout picture released by the Israeli army on April 14, 2024, shows an Israeli Air Force fighter aircraft at an undisclosed airfield reportedly after a mission to intercept incoming airborne threats. (Israel Defense Forces/AFP)
This handout picture released by the Israeli army on April 14, 2024, shows an Israeli Air Force fighter aircraft at an undisclosed airfield reportedly after a mission to intercept incoming airborne threats. (Israel Defense Forces/AFP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his immediate war cabinet are considering what action to take following Iran’s attack on the country on Saturday.

Allies including the United States have urged Israel not to risk igniting a wider regional conflict, and President Joe Biden has made clear US forces would not join any retaliatory attack on Iran.

Despite the warnings, Israel’s war cabinet is leaning toward a forceful response, an Israeli source told The Times of Israel.

For now, Israel’s thinking is that there is no harm in keeping Iran guessing by delaying a potential response. “Let them be anxious,” the source said.

They noted that Israel could respond “within Iran or outside Iran.”

Here are some of the options Israel may be considering:


Israel could respond to the Iranian barrage with airstrikes of its own, particularly as Iranian air defenses are considered much less developed than the multi-layer system that Israel and its allies deployed on Saturday night.

An Israel Air Force officer told a briefing with reporters that the air force was ready to defend Israel and added: “Some of defense is to react and attack if needed.”

“And that is put to our government and the cabinet and for them to decide how, when and if,” the officer said.

Such an attack could hit strategic facilities including Revolutionary Guards bases or nuclear research facilities.

In this picture released by the official website of the Iranian Army on Jan. 19, 2024, a missile is launched during a military drill in southern Iran (Iranian Army via AP)

On Monday, the head of the UN’s atomic watchdog said he was worried Israel could strike an Iranian nuclear facility, though the chances of such an action are thought to be fairly low.

Former intelligence officials also say Israel would be less likely to hit civilian infrastructure such as power plants, and would need to avoid civilian casualties.

This would be both to prevent further loss of international support and also because of the assessment that the Iranian authorities are vulnerable to popular pressure over political repression and the dire economic situation.

Significant civilian casualties would be considered likely to rally Iranian public support behind the government.

Demonstrators hang an effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the funeral for seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members killed in a strike in Syria, which Iran blamed on Israel, in Tehran on April 5, 2024. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Israel’s Channel 12 news speculated that a strike on an Iranian oil field could be a possibility, given the strategic importance of the energy sector to Iran and the low risk of extensive casualties. The fields are largely unprotected, according to the report.

Israel could also hit proxy groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon or Iranian targets in countries such as Syria and Iraq. However, the fact that Iran directly attacked Israel for the first time suggests that any such action would be only part of a wider response that would also target Iran itself.

Cyber warfare

Israel is believed to have carried out numerous cyber attacks in Iran over the years, on infrastructure ranging from gas stations to industrial plants and nuclear facilities, and a repeat is considered among the likely options for retaliation.

File: A natural gas refinery is visible at the South Pars gas field on the northern coast of the Persian Gulf, in Asaluyeh, Iran, March 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

Any such attacks could interfere in highly visible areas such as energy production or flight services. As with direct air strikes, former intelligence officials say they believe Israel would avoid attacks on infrastructure such as hospitals to reduce the impact on the general population.

Covert operations

Israel is believed to have previously carried out a number of covert operations inside Iran, including the assassination of several of its senior nuclear scientists and the sabotage of nuclear facilities.

Such operations could be carried out both inside and outside Iran.

A woman walks by a billboard honoring nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in the Iranian capital Tehran, on November 30, 2020. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

However, Israel is seeking to restore deterrence by making sure Iran knows any attack will be met in kind, meaning it may not opt for an action that needs to be kept hushed up.


In addition to military and intelligence strikes against Iran, Israel is stepping up diplomatic efforts to isolate Tehran, including by pushing the international community to expand sanctions.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz has also renewed pressure on European countries to join the United States in declaring Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terror organization.

Lazar Berman contributed to this report.

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