Raisi, Iranian leaders warn Israel against ‘slightest’ response to weekend attack

President cautions any Israeli counter attack will be ‘met with a severe, extensive and painful response’; deputy FM says Israel ‘must now reckon in seconds, not hours’

Handout picture of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi chairing a cabinet meeting in Tehran on April 2, 2024. (Iranian Presidency/AFP)
Handout picture of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi chairing a cabinet meeting in Tehran on April 2, 2024. (Iranian Presidency/AFP)

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has warned Israel it will face a “painful response” if it takes the “slightest action” in response to Iran’s unprecedented drone and missile barrage against the Jewish state over the weekend.

Iran’s first-ever direct attack on Israel on the night of Saturday-Sunday came in response to an April 1 air strike on Tehran’s embassy compound in Damascus that has been widely blamed on Israel.

The strike killed seven Revolutionary Guards, two of them generals.

“We firmly declare that the slightest action against Iran’s interests will definitely be met with a severe, extensive and painful response,” Raisi said in a call late Monday with Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Raisi reiterated that Iran was acting in “self-defense,” saying the operation targeted Israeli bases used to carry out the Syria strike, a statement from his office said.

He criticized the support of some Western governments for Israel.

File: Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator and ddeputy foreign minister Ali Bagheri Kani leaves after talks at the Coburg Palais, the venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna on August 4, 2022. (Alex Halada/AFP)

Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani also responded on the fraught situation with Israel, saying late Monday that the Jewish state would face a “resolute and hard response” if it takes further action against Iran.

Bagheri Kani said that “there will not be a 12 or 13-day gap between a Zionist regime move and Iran’s powerful response anymore. The Zionists must now reckon in seconds, not hours.”

Iran said it had informed the United States and given a 72-hour warning to neighboring countries ahead of what it called its “limited” attack on Israel.

File: Israeli air defense systems intercept missiles fired from Iran, in central Israel, April 14, 2024. (AP/Tomer Neuberg)

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi vowed Monday to respond to the unprecedented attack, even after appeals for restraint poured in from world leaders fearing wider regional conflict.

“This launch of so many missiles, cruise missiles, and UAVs into the territory of the State of Israel will be met with a response,” Halevi told troops at Nevatim Airbase, which was hit in Iran’s Saturday night barrage.

The Israeli army has said the vast majority of the weapons were shot down — with the help of the United States and other allies — and the attack caused only minimal damage.

“We cannot stand still [in the face of] this kind of aggression,” IDF spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters on Tuesday, while displaying the remains of an intercepted ballistic missile at Julis Base near Kiryat Malachi. “Iran will not get [off] scot-free with this aggression.”

Israel’s high-level war cabinet was set to meet Tuesday for the third time in three days to discuss a response to Iran’s first-ever direct attack, which left one child in southern Israel with serious injuries and caused minor damage to a military base.

Handout picture released by the IDF showing army chief Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi (C) attending a situational assessment with members of the General Staff Forum at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, April 14, 2024. (Israeli Army/AFP)

The US and other allies have urged restraint, amid fears that an Israeli reprisal could spark a wider conflict and fragment the US-led coalition that came together to take down Iran’s aerial attack. Despite worries of a larger conflagration breaking out, Israeli hardliners argue the country must mount a response to restore deterrence.

US President Joe Biden has stressed that “the United States is committed to Israel’s security” and wants to prevent the conflict from spreading.

Washington, Israel’s top ally and arms supplier, has made clear it will not join Israel in any attack on Iran, a senior US official said.

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