US, UK and Jordan intercept many of the Iranian drones headed to Israel

Israeli official says American forces stopped over 100 aircraft outside the country; Jordanian jets shot down dozens of drones in kingdom’s airspace; France also assists defense

This picture taken on April 14 ,2024, shows intercepted missiles fired from Iran toward Israel, as seen over northern Israel. (Jalaa MAREY / AFP)
This picture taken on April 14 ,2024, shows intercepted missiles fired from Iran toward Israel, as seen over northern Israel. (Jalaa MAREY / AFP)

The United States, Britain, Jordan and France all helped to intercept the massive barrage of drones Iran fired at Israel overnight Saturday, according to officials.

While the US, Britain and France are military allies of Israel, the move was a dramatic show of support from Amman, which has heavily criticized Israel’s prosecution of its war in Gaza against Palestinian terror group Hamas.

The Israel Defense Forces on Sunday said the Iranian attack, the Islamic Republic’s first direct assault on Israel, comprised some 170 drones, 30 cruise missiles, and 120 ballistic missiles.

The US and Israel had been bracing for an attack for days after Iran said it would retaliate for a suspected Israeli strike this month on what Tehran claims was a consular building in Syria that killed 12 people, including two senior Iranian generals in the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force.

The Pentagon said its forces intercepted “dozens of missiles” and drones launched from Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen that were headed toward Israel.

US military forces, operating from undisclosed bases in the region, shot down a number of Iranian drones in Sweida and Deraa provinces in southern Syria near the Jordanian border, security sources told Reuters.

US President Joe Biden, along with members of his national security team, receive an update on an ongoing airborne attack on Israel from Iran, as they meet in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington, April 13, 2024. (Adam Schultz/The White House via AP)

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari confirmed on Sunday morning that France was also involved in Israel’s defense, though he said he did not have exact details on whether French jets had shot down any of the missiles launched by Iran.

“France has very good technology, jets, radar – and I know they were contributing in patrolling airspace,” he said.

US President Joe Biden said Saturday that US forces helped take down “nearly all” the drones and missiles fired by Iran at Israel, adding that he had reaffirmed his “ironclad” support to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He said he had ordered US military aircraft and ballistic missile defense destroyers to the Middle East in recent days as the likely Iranian threat to the key US ally became clear.

“Thanks to these deployments and the extraordinary skill of our servicemembers, we helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles,” Biden said.

“I told [Netanyahu] that Israel demonstrated a remarkable capacity to defend against and defeat even unprecedented attacks — sending a clear message to its foes that they cannot effectively threaten the security of Israel,” he said.

No US forces or facilities had come under attack from Iran, he said.

Illustrative. This May 12, 2014, US Air Force handout photo shows members of the Royal Jordanian Air Force rushing to launch an F-16 Fighting Falcon during a scramble competition at Exercise Eager Tiger at an air base in northern Jordan. (AFP)

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement the US took out dozens of the attacks but did not provide details on ships or aircraft involved in the operation, which commanders had been preparing for over the past two weeks.

“Our forces remain postured to protect US troops and partners in the region, provide further support for Israel’s defense, and enhance regional stability,” Austin said, adding that troops were standing ready to prevent any further conflict.

Jordan shoots down dozens of Iranian drones

Meanwhile, Jordan’s air force intercepted and shot down dozens of Iranian drones that violated its airspace and were heading to Israel, two regional security sources said.

According to a Sunday Jordanian cabinet statement, Jordan intercepted some flying objects that entered its airspace to ensure the safety of its citizens. “Some shrapnel fell in multiple places during that time without causing any significant damage or any injuries to citizens,” it added.

The regional security sources said the army was also in a state of high alert and radar systems were monitoring any drone activity coming from the direction of Iraq and Syria.

Sources said drones were brought down in the air on the Jordanian side of the Jordan Valley that were heading in the direction of Jerusalem. Others were intercepted close to the Iraqi-Syrian border. They gave no further details.

Residents in several cities in the northern part of Jordan near Syria and central and southern areas heard heavy aerial activity.

In neighborhoods south of the capital Amman, 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Jerusalem, several downed drones were seen.

Residents gathered around the remnants of one suspected large drone that fell in a commercial area of the city’s Marj al Hamam suburb.

A security source had earlier said the country’s air force was intensifying reconnaissance flights.

Jordan earlier said it had closed its airspace starting on Saturday night to all incoming, departing, and transiting aircraft, in what officials told Reuters were precautionary measures in the event of an Iranian strike across its border.

“The relevant authorities took the decision to close the airspace for precautionary reasons as a result of the surrounding security situation,” Jordan’s government spokesperson Muhannad Mubaideen said.

Mubaideen denied media reports that the kingdom had announced a state of emergency, adding that there was no cause for concern among its citizens.

File: In this photo released by the Iranian army on Oct. 3, 2023, drones are launched during the air force nationwide drone drill centered in northern Semnan province, Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)

Jordan neighbors Syria and Iraq – both countries where Iranian proxy forces operate – and is next door to Israel and the West Bank.

It has watched Israel’s war against the Palestinian terror group Hamas, an Iranian ally, with rising alarm for fear of getting caught in the crossfire.

Late last year, Amman asked Washington to deploy Patriot air defense systems to the country to bolster its border defenses.

Officials say the Pentagon had since increased its military aid to the kingdom, a major regional ally, where hundreds of US troops are based and hold exercises with the army throughout the year.

In January, three US service members were killed and dozens wounded in a drone attack by Iran-backed terrorists on US troops in northeastern Jordan near the Syrian border.

It was the first deadly strike against US forces since the Israel-Hamas war erupted in October and marked a major escalation in tensions that have engulfed the Middle East.

Britain vows to ‘intercept any airborne attacks within range’

British Royal Air Force jets in the Middle East “will intercept any airborne attacks within range of our existing missions, as required” after Iran targeted Israel with drones and missiles, the country’s Ministry of Defense said during the night.

“In response to increased Iranian threats and the growing risk of escalation in the Middle East, the UK Government has been working with partners across the region to encourage de-escalation and prevent further attacks,” the statement added.

Illustrative. A British Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon jet fighter departs Gioia del Colle air base, Italy, March 22, 2011. (Donato Fasano/AP)

There were no initial reports on how many drones the RAF stopped.

IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Sunday that 99% of the 300 or so projectiles fired by Iran at Israel overnight had been intercepted by air defenses.

According to Hagari, most of the missiles were intercepted by the long-range Arrow air defense system, and were mostly downed outside of Israeli airspace, he said, adding that fighter jets also intercepted dozens of cruise missiles and dozens of drones.

Some of the missiles managed to bypass Israel’s defenses, hitting the Nevatim Airbase in southern Israel.

Hagari said slight damage was caused to some infrastructure at Nevatim, but the airbase was running as usual.

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