Israelis tell NYT: Original plan was major strike on military targets near Tehran, beyond

Account also cites Israeli official saying a 2nd missile fired at Iranian antiaircraft battery was destroyed by the IAF en route, once it was clear the first had reached its target

Illustrative: A missile is on display with a sign on it which reads 'Death to Israel' in Farsi, in front of a mosque in the shape of Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock, at an entrance to Quds, an Iranian town to the west of the capital Tehran, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Illustrative: A missile is on display with a sign on it which reads 'Death to Israel' in Farsi, in front of a mosque in the shape of Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock, at an entrance to Quds, an Iranian town to the west of the capital Tehran, April 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Israel’s original retaliatory plan against Iran included a much wider counterstrike on military targets, including near Tehran, The New York Times reported on Monday, citing three Israeli officials.

“Such a broad and damaging attack would have been far harder for Iran to overlook, increasing the chances of a forceful Iranian counterattack,” the paper said.

As has been widely reported, Israel shelved plans for an immediate response to Iran’s unprecedented direct attack on April 13-14 when it became clear that Israel had thwarted most of the Iranian missiles and drones with the help of a US-led coalition, and after a phone call that night between US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel ultimately opted for a less powerful response, carried out overnight Thursday-Friday, amid intensive diplomatic pressure to avoid an escalation of the direct hostilities.

Citing Israeli and Western officials, the Times account also said Israel fired “a small number of missiles” from aircraft stationed several hundred miles west of Iran, and also launched small attack drones, known as quadcopters, “to confuse Iranian air defenses.”

A single missile hit an antiaircraft battery in a strategically important part of central Iran, the report said — previous accounts had indicated this was part of the S-300 air defenses for the Natanz nuclear facility — while another exploded in midair.

An Israeli official was quoted as saying this second missile was destroyed by the Air Force “once it became clear that the first had reached its target, to avoid causing too much damage.” The Times also cited a Western official who suggested the second missile may have “simply malfunctioned.”

Amid reports that Israeli missiles were fired at Iran overnight April 18-19, 2024, Iraqi officials inspect parts of a missile found some 45 miles southwest of Baghdad, on April 19, 2024. The footage shows what appears to be parts of a two-stage standoff air-to-surface missile. (YouTube screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

Citing Israeli officials, the Times said Israel initially scheduled the attack for Monday night, April 15, but pulled out at the last minute for fear that Hezbollah might “significantly increase the intensity of its strikes on northern Israel.”

The report did not indicate whether or why that assessment changed before the strike went ahead overnight Thursday-Friday.

A photographer approaches the remains of a missile that landed on the shore of the Dead Sea, a week after the April 13 missile barrage fired by Iran, on April 21, 2024. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Israel has not officially acknowledged responsibility for the counterstrike, though several of its leaders have intimated responsibility. Iran has played down the significance of the response and not directly blamed Israel, which the Times said is being interpreted as “Iranian reluctance to respond.”

The report cited Israeli and Western officials as saying that Israel was satisfied its alleged Friday strike had demonstrated to Tehran that Israel possessed a variety of highly advanced methods to strike strategic sites deep in Iranian territory, including the Natanz nuclear reactor.

The army did not respond to the report.

Iran’s April 13-14 attack, an unprecedented direct assault in which some 350 ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones were fired at Israel, was in retaliation to an alleged Israeli April 1 airstrike at Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, which killed seven Revolutionary Guard members, including two generals.

Vehicles drive past the cordoned-off Iranian Embassy building as workers remove the rubble of a consular annex a day after it was hit in a strike in Damascus, Syria, April 2, 2024. (Louai Beshara/AFP)

The Times report said — as has also been published — that Israel initially believed Iran would not retaliate strongly for the Damascus strike, since previous such attacks had been carried out with relative impunity.

Some 99% of the Iranian barrage — one of the largest of its kind in military history, according to the Times — was repelled, though a 7-year-old Bedouin girl in southern Israel was severely injured, and minimal damage was said to have been done to the Nevatim airbase outside Beersheba.

Iran and Israel’s decades-long shadow war burst into the open after nearly six months of war in the Gaza Strip, where Israel launched an unprecedented offensive after thousands of Hamas-led terrorists stormed the country’s south on October 7 to kill nearly 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and take over 250 hostages.

Since October 7, Iran’s proxies in Lebanon and Yemen have targeted Israel as well, which they say is in support of Gaza’s Palestinians. Gaza’s Hamas rulers also receive financial and logistical assistance from Iran.

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