Report: Israel reassures Arab nations they won't be endangered

US said to believe Israel won’t strike Iran directly, will focus on proxies instead

Raisi warns ‘smallest action against Iranian interests’ will be met with ‘severe, widespread and painful response’; pressure mounts on Israel and Iran to avoid further escalation

Israeli Air Force fighter jets are seen in an undated image published by the IDF on April 14, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli Air Force fighter jets are seen in an undated image published by the IDF on April 14, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The US believes that Israel’s response to Iran’s unprecedented attack early on Sunday morning will likely to be limited, and may focus on striking key targets outside of Iran in a bid to avoid a wider conflagration, US media reported Tuesday

Noting that the US’s assessment is based on conversations with Israeli officials prior to the attack and that Israel’s approach may since have shifted, four US officials told NBC that the lack of serious damage caused by Tehran may lead Jerusalem to seek a less aggressive response.

Instead of directly striking Iran in response — which Israel’s allies have warned runs the risk of sending the region spiraling into an all-out war — the officials told NBC that Israel may strike Iran’s proxies, such as its militias in Syria or the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

The report added that the US expects Israel to provide updates regarding the decisions it makes, but does not intend to take part in any retaliatory reaction.

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said on Monday that Iran’s attack on Israel – which was a retaliation after the April 1 bombing of the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus that has been blamed on Israel – “will be met with a response.”

An unsourced report by Channel 12 on Monday claimed that Israel’s war cabinet decided to hit back “clearly and forcefully” against Iran with a response designed to send the message that Israel “will not allow an attack of that magnitude against it to pass without a reaction.”

The Israeli war cabinet and top security officials meet in Tel Aviv on April 14, hours after Iran’s missile and drone attack on Israel. (Amos Ben Gershom/ GPO)

However, the Channel 12 report added that Israel does not want its response to spark a regional war, or to shatter the multinational coalition that helped it defend against Iran’s attack. It noted also that Israel intends to coordinate its action with the US.

But Tehran has indicated that an attack on its interests outside of Iran could also spark an escalation.

Iran will respond to any action against its interests, President Ebrahim Raisi said on Tuesday, according to the Iranian Student News Agency.

“We categorically declare that the smallest action against Iranian interests will certainly be met with a severe, widespread and painful response against any perpetrator,” Raisi told the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

Raisi reiterated the claim that Iran’s unprecedented attack was “self-defense,” saying the operation targeted Israeli bases used to carry out the April 1 strike in Damascus which Tehran blames on Israel, a statement from his office said.

He also criticized the support of some Western governments for Israel.

In this photo released by the Iranian Presidency Office, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, right, shakes hands with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh at his office in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, March 27, 2024. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Iran’s deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani told state TV on Monday night that Tehran’s counteroffensive following any Israeli retaliation would be “a matter of seconds as Iran will not wait for another 12 days to respond.”

Meanwhile, Israel has reassured Arab countries in the region that its response to Iran’s attack would not place them in danger, the Kan public broadcaster reported, amid concerns from several countries that they would be held accountable by Tehran in the event of an Israeli retaliatory strike.

According to the report, Israel has informed allied countries such as Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf states that its response, when it comes, will be carried out in such a way that Iran cannot implicate them in the retaliation.

In particular, Tehran’s comments have sparked concern in Jordan after Iran’s official media warned that Jordan would be the next target in the event it cooperated with Israel in a showdown with Iran.

Jordan took part in shooting down drones that entered its airspace and also allowed Israeli and US jets to operate. Other Arab states reportedly shared information with the Israeli and allied forces that operated to counter Iran’s unprecedented attack.

This handout picture released by the Jordanian Royal Palace shows Jordan’s King Abdullah II (L) receiving Iraq’s President Abdul Latif Rashid at Marka Airport in Jordan on April 15, 2024. (Photo by Jordanian Royal Palace / AFP)

Iran fired over 300 attack drones and missiles at Israel on Saturday, in retaliation for a deadly April 1 strike on what it said was a building in Tehran’s embassy compound in Syria, in which several commanders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were killed, that it blames on Israel.

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

Most of the projectiles were intercepted before they reached Israel, with the help of the United States, Jordan, and other allies, and the sole injury was a Bedouin girl, who was struck and seriously wounded by falling shrapnel in the Negev desert. The IAF’s southern Nevatim base suffered minor damage to infrastructure, the IDF said, but continued to function during the attack.

In the wake of the attack, Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote to 32 countries worldwide urging them to impose sanctions on Iran’s missile program and to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.

In a statement Tuesday on X, formerly Twitter, Katz declared that he was “leading a political attack against Iran.”

Sanctioning the missile program and moving to declare the IRGC a terror group will help to “contain and weaken Iran,” Katz wrote, adding that it “must be stopped now — before it is too late.”

Motorists drive past a billboard showing named Iranian ballistic missiles, with text in Arabic reading “the honest [person’s] promise” and in Persian “Israel is weaker than a spider’s web”, in Valiasr Square in central Tehran on April 15, 2024. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)
The Group of Seven major democracies were already working on a package of coordinated measures against Iran, according to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The Iranian attack and fears of an Israeli counterstrike has sparked a flurry of diplomacy with both Tehran and Jerusalem being urged to exercise restraint.

China said Tuesday it believes Iran could “handle the situation well and spare the region further turmoil” while safeguarding its sovereignty and dignity, following a phone call between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Amir-Abdollahian told Wang that Iran is aware of the regional tensions, was willing to exercise restraint, and has no intention of further escalations, according to Xinhua.

Wang reiterated Iran’s assertion that its launch of some 350 missiles and drones at Israel early Sunday was a “limited” action taken in self-defense.

An image-grab from a video taken early on April 14, 2024, shows the Dome of the Rock atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, with the lights of missile interceptions visible in the night sky, early on April 14, 2024, after Iran fired ballistic missiles at Israel (AFP)

Wang also condemned the alleged Israeli strike in Damascus and thanked Iran for not targeting regional and neighboring countries as it bombarded Israel.

Xinhua said Wang also told Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud that China was willing to work with Riyadh to avoid further escalation in the Middle East.

Riyadh “highly expects” China to play an active and important role in that regard, the Saudi foreign minister was quoted as saying, adding that his country is willing to strengthen communication and coordination with China to promote an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Gaza.

Japan also urged Iran to exercise restraint following its attack against Israel during a telephone call between the two countries’ foreign ministers, the Japanese foreign ministry said Tuesday.

Japan Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa also urged that the safety of navigation be ensured in the region’s waters in the call, the Japanese government said.

Israel also faced pressure with Western governments, including those that supported Israel in its defense, warning against an escalation.

US President Joe Biden has told Netanyahu that Washington would not offer military support for any retaliation against Iran, according to a senior US official.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and French President Emmanuel Macron were also among those urging restraint.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington did not “seek escalation, but we’ll continue to support the defense of Israel.”

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