Gallant: Iranian bid to dent Israeli deterrence failed

Response to Iranian attack a must, but Israel will be smart about it, officials say

Gantz promises to act out of strategic wisdom, not rush reaction, as war cabinet meets for third time in three days to hash out retaliation that won’t lead to regional escalation

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, right, and his deputy Masha Michelson pose next to an Iranian ballistic missile which was intercepted and fell into the Dead Sea days earlier, during a media tour at the Julis military base near the southern Israeli city of Kiryat Malachi on April 16, 2024. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)
Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, right, and his deputy Masha Michelson pose next to an Iranian ballistic missile which was intercepted and fell into the Dead Sea days earlier, during a media tour at the Julis military base near the southern Israeli city of Kiryat Malachi on April 16, 2024. (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)

The Israeli military said Iran would not get off “scot-free” following its unprecedented missile and drone attack early Sunday, as the country’s leaders continued to mull how to balance a forceful response with calls by the United States and other allies to keep the round of fighting from snowballing further.

“We cannot stand still from this kind of aggression,” Israel Defense Forces spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told reporters in English at Julis military base near Kiryat Malachi, while displaying the remains of an intercepted ballistic missile. “Iran will not get [off] scot-free with this aggression.”

The remains represent just 70 percent of the entire missile, as the warhead and other sections were destroyed during the interception. The massive missile, one of 120 fired at Israel, was found on Sunday morning floating in the Dead Sea.

According to the IDF, the missile had an estimated 450-kilogram warhead. The military is expected to study the remains to deepen its understanding of Iranian weapons systems.

Hagari’s comments were latest threat from military officials, after IDF chief Herzi Halevi vowed Monday night that “there will be a response” to the approximately 350 drones and missiles launched at Israel late Saturday and early Sunday.

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

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

Hagari charged that the Islamic Republic was “building a conventional threat, meaning to create a ring of fire across Israel.”

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz said Israel would choose when and how to respond to the attack, while working with the US to build a global and regional alliance against Tehran.

Minister Benny Gantz attends a conference of Israel Hayom newspaper in Ashkelon, April 16, 2024. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

“Israel will act out of strategic wisdom, and will respond in the place, time and manner it chooses. And this is not the place to elaborate,” he said at a conference organized by the Israel Hayom daily newspaper.

The former IDF chief and defense minister said he had spoken with senior US officials about an international response to Iran, including military action and sanctions.

“Iran is a global and regional problem, and also a threat to Israel,” he said.

Earlier Tuesday, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said sanctions would be imposed to keep disrupting Iran’s “malign and destabilizing activity,” as Washington sought to keep Israel from responding violently.

She told a news conference in Washington that all options to disrupt Iran’s “terrorist financing” were on the table, and that she expected further sanctions against Iran to be announced in coming days.

A model of a missile is carried by Iranian demonstrators as minarets and the dome of a mosque is seen in the background during an anti-Israeli gathering at the Felestin Sq. in Tehran, Iran, Monday, April 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Also at the Israel Hayom conference, Hagari said it would be “impossible not to respond to such an attack” as Iran’s barrage.

At the same time, though, he talked up the importance of the regional alliance — including the US, United Kingdom, France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt — which came together to help knock down almost all of the UAVs, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles lobbed at Israel.

“This is a great opportunity that must be seized,” he said, urging that attention remain focused on the war in Gaza and hostages still being held there.

“Thanks to our operational success on Saturday, we now have many options for how and when to act,” he said. “We will act properly and at the right time, and any discussion on this matter is unnecessary.”

According to the IDF, Iran’s attack comprised 170 drones, 30 cruise missiles and 120 ballistic missiles — 99% of which were intercepted by air defenses.

One intercepted ballistic missile that crashed into the Dead Sea was put on display for foreign reporters Tuesday. The massive projectile was carrying an estimated 500-kilogram warhead, the IDF said.

The army also released largely blurred footage showing the Israeli Air Force’s control room at the IDF’s underground headquarters as the first interceptions of the Iranian missiles and drones were carried out early Sunday.

Iran called the barrage retaliation for an alleged Israeli strike that destroyed a building in its embassy compound in Damascus and killed two of its generals and several other officers.

It has threatened to respond with even greater firepower should Israel retaliate, while telling allies that it has no intention of escalating matters if there is no reprisal.

Meeting with troops in northern Israel, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared that Iran’s barrage was a “failure,” and said Israel was not deterred from taking further action against Iran.

“The Iranians will not be able to implement a different equation of deterrence against the State of Israel,” Gallant said. “The Air Force planes are operating everywhere, the skies of the Middle East are open, any enemy that will fight against us, we will know how to hit it wherever they are.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks to troops in northern Israel on April 16, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

The comments were released shortly after Israel said it had carried out a drone strike in southern Lebanon, killing a commander of Iranian proxy Hezbollah in charge of activities near the coast, following an attack from the group that left three Israelis with injuries.

According to a Channel 13 TV poll, 29% of Israelis support an immediate strike on Iran, 37% support attacking at a later date and 25% oppose such action.

Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, who chairs the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said any Israeli response would aim to send a message of deterrence to Tehran, while drawing a line under this round of hostilities.

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

He said planners were taking into account the war-wariness of Western powers, the risk to air crews from any sorties against Iran and the need to keep focus on the more than half-year-long Gaza offensive.

“We’ll have to react. Iranians will know we reacted. And I sincerely hope that it will teach them a lesson that you can’t attack a sovereign country just because you find it doable,” said Edelstein.

Asked if the Israeli response would seek to avoid greater casualties, Edelstein said targets were still being discussed, but “we always take always take into consideration the international norms” and that Israel did not intentionally target civilians.

“I sincerely hope that they will understand that it’s not in their interest to continue this kind of exchange of blows,” he said. “We are not interested in a full-scale war. We are not, as I have said, in the business of revenge.”

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