Gallant: Israel 'will know how to respond' if attacked

Report warns Iran could launch major drone and missile attack within hours

US general meets with Israeli defense brass to discuss expected Iranian retaliation for alleged Israeli strike on IRGC members; Halevi says IDF ‘ready for any scenario’

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with the CENTCOM chief Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla at the Hatzor Airbase, April 12, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with the CENTCOM chief Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla at the Hatzor Airbase, April 12, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

A major retaliatory attack by Iran on Israel could come as soon as Friday, according to an American media report, as the top United States general in the Mideast visited for talks with the defense brass on military readiness amid the Iranian threats.

Citing two unnamed US officials, CBS reported the attack could possibly include more than 100 drones and dozens of missiles aimed at military targets inside the country, the officials said, while warning Israel would be challenged to fend off an assault of that scale.

The officials said it was possible Tehran may still opt for a smaller-magnitude strike in order to avoid a dramatic escalation.

Israel has been on high alert amid multiple threats and intelligence assessments that Iran would launch a strike on Israeli targets in a bid to avenge the April 1 airstrike on an Iranian consulate building in the Syrian capital of Damascus, which killed several Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders, including two generals.

Both Tehran and Damascus have blamed Israel for the strike and vowed revenge, although Jerusalem has not commented on the matter.

“We still deem the potential threat by Iran here to be real, to be viable,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday.

Kirby added that the US was looking at its own force posture in the region in light of Tehran’s threat and was watching the situation very closely. An unnamed American defense official told Fox News that the US was moving “additional assets” to the region “to bolster regional deterrence efforts and increase force protection for US forces,” without providing specifics.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with the CENTCOM chief Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla at the Hatzor Airbase, April 12, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Amid concerns an Iranian attack on Israel could spark a broader conflagration in the Middle East, CENTCOM chief Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla met Friday with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi. Gallant’s office said the two discussed “readiness for an Iranian attack against the State of Israel, which may lead to regional escalation.”

“Our enemies think that they can pull apart Israel and the United States, but the opposite is true, they are bringing us together and strengthening our ties. We stand shoulder to shoulder,” Gallant said in a statement after the meeting.

“I am certain that the world sees the true face of Iran, the terrorist body that incites terror attacks across the Middle East, and funds Hamas, Hezbollah, and additional forces [proxies], and now also threatens the State of Israel,” he continued.

“We are prepared to defend ourselves on the ground and in the air, in close cooperation with our partners, and we will know how to respond,” Gallant added.

The meeting between Gallant and Kurilla was also attended by the IDF Deputy Chief of Staff, Maj. Gem. Amir Baram, the head of the ministry’s Political-Military Bureau, Dror Shalom, and the minister’s military secretary, Brig. Gen. Guy Markizeno.

Before meeting with Kurilla, the IDF said Halevi held a “comprehensive” assessment of the military’s “readiness for all scenarios.”

“The IDF is well prepared in attack and defense against any threat. We are at war and have been on high alert for about six months. The IDF continues to closely monitor what is happening in Iran and in the various arenas, while constantly preparing to deal with existing and potential threats in coordination with the United States armed forces,” Halevi said following the assessment, in remarks published by the IDF.

“Our forces are prepared and ready at any time and against any scenario,” he added.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi meets with CENTCOM chief Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla at the IDF HQ in Tel Aviv, April 12, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The assessment was attended by Baram, the head of the Operations Directorate, Maj. Gen Oded Basiuk, the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate, Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, the commander of the Air Force, Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar, the commander of the Home Front Command, Maj. Gen. Rafi Milo, and other officers, according to the army.

The IDF said the top commanders presented their preparations “for attack and defense, while referring to possible scenarios and adjusting the operational response.”

After the talks between Halevi and Kurilla, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said the two “held a joint assessment of the situation, to ensure that our coordination is tight.” Hagari added there were still no changes in instructions to civilians amid the heightened alert of a potential Iranian attack.

“If there are any changes, we will update [the public] immediately,” Hagari said, stressing that civilians should still remain vigilant, as Israel’s air defenses are “among the best in the world, but not hermetic.”

“We have been at war for the past six months, and we have dealt with all the existing threats. Our defense is ready, and knows how to handle each threat individually. We are also ready for attack, with a variety of capabilities, to protect the citizens of Israel,” he said.

Hagari accused Iran of “escalating the situation in the Middle East” amid the war in Gaza. “We will know how to operate wherever needed,” he said.

Responding to a question on the IDF’s threat assessments of Iran, Hagari said Tehran has been acting against Israel since the start of the war, citing attacks by its proxies in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

“We’ve been acting against them [all] since the start of the war,” he said. “Iran is escalating, pushing for regional escalation. We’ll know how to deal with the Iranian threat. We are well-prepared and will know how to respond to anything.”

Meanwhile, US officials quoted by Saudi news outlet Al-Hadath said Washington will respond to any Iranian attack that targets American soldiers, bases or interests.

The unnamed officials echoed previous US comments that Washington has sent a clear message to Tehran that it was not involved in an April 1 airstrike on the Iranian consulate building in Damascus. The Saudi paper reported that US officials were confident that Iran has received the message, having been told, “We are not Israel and Israel is the one that launched the attack.”

American officials cited by the Axios news site said Iran has sent indirect warnings to that it will attack US troops in the region if the US gets involved militarily. It also reported US has asked Israel to notify the Biden administration and give it a say before deciding on a response.

Also Friday, India advised its citizens against traveling to Iran and Israel until further notice in view of the “prevailing situation in the region.”

The Indian foreign ministry said visitors to the two countries should observe “utmost precautions about their safety and restrict their movements to the minimum.”

“Any escalation may lead to significant restrictions in air traffic and the inability to cross land border crossings.”

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)

France on Friday warned its citizens to “imperatively refrain from travel in the coming days to Iran, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories.” Poland also advised against travel to Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon.

“It cannot be ruled out that there will be a sudden escalation of military operations, which would cause significant difficulties in leaving these three countries,” the Polish foreign ministry said in a statement, amid expectations for an Iranian retaliatory strike against Israel.

On Thursday, the US said it had restricted its employees in Israel and their family members from personal travel outside the greater Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beersheba areas amid Iran’s threats “out of an abundance of caution.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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