NYT: Israel’s original plan provided for major strike on military targets including near Tehran

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)

The New York Times publishes an account of Israel’s decision to hit back at Iran overnight Thursday-Friday, citing three unnamed Israeli officials, that says the original retaliatory plan included a much wider counterstrike on military targets including near Tehran.

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 it 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 President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and ultimately opted for a less powerful response amid intensive diplomatic pressure to avoid an escalation of the direct hostilities.

Citing Israeli and Western officials, the Times account also says Israeli fighter jets fired “a small number of missiles” from several hundred miles west of Iran, and also used 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 says — previous accounts have indicated this was part of the S-300 air defenses for the Natanz nuclear facility — while another exploded in midair.

It quotes an Israeli official 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.” It also quotes a Western official saying the second missile may have “simply malfunctioned.”

The Times account also claims 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.” It does not indicate whether or why that assessment changed before the strike went ahead overnight Thursday-Friday.

Israel has not officially acknowledged responsibility for the counterstrike, though several of its leaders have intimated responsibility, and Iran has played down the significance of the response and not directly blamed Israel.

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