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Israel braces as Iran launches wave of retaliatory strikes

Originally Published: 13 APR 24 16:19 ET

Updated: 13 APR 24 19:31 ET

By Lauren Izso, Jeremy Diamond, Hamdi Alkhshali and Adam Pourahmadi, CNN

(CNN) — Iran has launched a wave of strikes toward Israel in retaliation for last week’s deadly Israeli strike on an Iranian embassy complex in Syria, in an unprecedented move by Tehran that could further widen the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

Several dozen drones were launched from within Iran on Saturday, a senior US administration official told CNN, while an Israeli military officer put the number at “more than 100.” Iran state media confirmed that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had “launched extensive drone strikes against targets in occupied territories,” referring to Israel.

Iran has also launched missiles against Israel, according to Israeli and Iranian media.

In response, tens of Israeli fighter jets are now airborne on a “defense mission in Israeli airspace,” according to an Israeli military official, who said Israeli forces aim to intercept the drones before they reached Israeli skies.

CNN’s team in Jerusalem reported hearing explosions and sirens as apparent intercepts took place early Sunday morning local time.

“We are continuing to see multiple intercepts in the skies above me coming from multiple different directions. It’s hard to tell what is an incoming missile and what is an intercept,” CNN’s Nic Robertson reported.

“I’m hearing multiple, multiple detonations, again of what sound like interceptions. I am not hearing the sound of impacts,” he said, adding that his team had already witnessed dozens of apparent intercepts.

Two US officials said US air defense systems in the Middle East had also intercepted some Iranian drones, but they did not specify where or how. US officials had previously told CNN the US would attempt to intercept any weapons launched at Israel if it was feasible to do so.

Public shelters have been opened in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, and Israel has closed its airspace, as have nearby Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. Israel’s Home Front Command meanwhile announced that gatherings of more than 1,000 people would be prohibited.

US President Joe Biden met Saturday night in a lengthy meeting with his national security team to assess the attack, according to a US official.

Biden is “in constant communication with Israeli officials as well as other partners and allies,” the US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said Saturday, emphasizing that the administration’s “support for Israel’s security is ironclad.”

US Navy forces in the Red Sea have previously intercepted long-range missiles launched from the Houthis in Yemen towards Israel. US forces in Iraq and Syria could also potentially intercept drones and rockets targeting northern Israel.

Iran’s mission to the UN confirmed early on Sunday local time that the drone attacks were its response to the strike on its consulate in Damascus, adding that the matter was now “deemed concluded.”

“However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe. It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, from which the US MUST STAY AWAY!” Iran’s Permanent Mission added in its statement on X.

Separately on Saturday, the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah claimed to have launched dozens of Katyusha rockets targeting the IDF air defense headquarters in the Golan Heights.

Retaliation for strike on embassy complex

Fears that Israel’s war in Gaza could spiral into a wider regional conflict have been been rising since Iran accused Israel of bombing its embassy complex in Syria earlier this month.

The airstrike destroyed the consulate building in the capital Damascus, killing at least seven officials including Mohammed Reza Zahedi, a top commander in Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and senior commander Mohammad Hadi Haji Rahimi, Iran’s foreign ministry said at the time.

Zahedi, a former commander of the IRGC’s ground forces, air force, and the deputy commander of its operations, was the most high-profile Iranian target killed since then-US President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of IRGC Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in 2020.

Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Israel would be punished for the attack, while President Ebrahim Raisi said it would “not go unanswered,” state news agency IRNA reported. The Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah said the strike would be met with “punishment and revenge.”

Israel has not publicly acknowledged responsibility for the strike but said it believed the building struck was a “military building of Quds forces” — a unit of the IRGC responsible for foreign operations.

Shortly after the launch of the drones on Saturday night, Iran’s Defense Minister, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, warned that any country that allows Israel to use its airspace or territory for attacking Iran would face a “decisive response.”

An expected threat

The US has warned for several days of a “real,” “credible” and “viable” threat of Iranian retaliatory strikes against Israel. Senior US officials said after the strike that they believed an attack by Iran was “inevitable” – a view shared by their Israeli counterparts, that official said.

As part of its response, the US sent Central Command chief Gen. Michael Kurilla to Israel for talks with Israeli military counterparts and on Friday a defense official told CNN the Pentagon was moving additional assets to the Middle East “to bolster regional deterrence efforts and increase force protection for US forces.”

Israel is prepared for a “direct attack by Iran,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Saturday evening.

“Our defensive systems are deployed; we are ready for any scenario, both defensively and offensively. The state of Israel is strong. The IDF is strong. The public is strong,” he said.

“We have determined a clear principle: Whoever harms us, we will harm them. We will defend ourselves against any threat and will do so level-headedly and with determination,” Netanyahu said.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Reporting contributed by CNN’s Paul Murphy.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

Originally Published: 13 APR 24 16:19 ET

Updated: 13 APR 24 16:23 ET

By CNN staff, CNN

(CNN) — Iran has launched drones toward Israel, Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari announced, amid fears of a regional escalation following an apparent Israeli attack on an Iranian embassy complex in Syria last week.

“We are following the threat in the airspace. It’s a threat that will take a number of hours to arrive in Israel,” Hagari said late on Saturday local time.

CNN political and global affairs analyst Barak Ravid reports that dozens of drones were launched by Iran, citing four US and Israeli officials.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

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