Apr 4, 2024 - World

Israel warns of consequences to any attack from Iran

The rubble of a building annexed to the Iranian embassy is pictured a day after an air strike in Damascus on April 2, 2024. Iran warned arch foe Israel on April 2 that it will punish an air strike that killed seven Revolutionary Guards, two of them generals, at its consular annex in Damascus.

The rubble of a building annexed to the Iranian embassy is pictured a day after an air strike in Damascus on Apr. 2, 2024. Photo: Louai Beshara/AFP via Getty Images

Israel told the U.S. if Iran launches an attack from its soil against Israel in retaliation for its deadly strike in Syria earlier this week, it would draw a strong response from Israel and take the current conflict to another level, Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: Iranian officials have publicly threatened to retaliate against Israel for the attack that killed a top Iranian official. The Biden administration and the Israeli government are highly concerned Iran is preparing for an imminent attack, U.S. and Israeli officials said.

  • Iranian proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Gaza have attacked Israel but there hasn't been an attack from Iranian soil.
  • A direct Iranian strike on Israel would be unprecedented and could lead to a regional war in the Middle East.

The latest: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the top of an Israeli security cabinet meeting on Thursday that Iran has been operating against Israel for years "both directly and via its proxies, and therefore Israel is operating against Iran and its proxies, both defensively and offensively."

  • "We will know how to defend ourselves and will operate according to the basic principle of whoever is harming or planning to harm us — we will harm him," he said according to a statement from his office.
  • In their call on Thursday, President Biden and Netanyahu discussed public Iranian threats against Israel. "President Biden made clear that the United States strongly supports Israel in the face of those threats," the White House said.

Driving the news: An Israeli strike on Damascus earlier this week killed Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a top Iranian Quds Force general in charge of Iran's military operations in Lebanon and Syria.

  • Zahedi was the most senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officer to be killed since the U.S. assassinated Qassem Soleimani in 2020.
  • He was killed along with six other Iranian officers in an Israeli strike on a building adjacent to the Iranian embassy in Damascus on Monday.

What they're saying: The Iranians claim the building was a consulate and said the strike is an attack on its soil in violation of international law.

  • Israeli officials claim it was not a diplomatic facility but a building used by the IRGC for military operations.
  • The spokesman for the IRGC said there will be more lethal attacks against Israel soon.
  • In an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Monday, Iran's deputy U.N. ambassador Zahra Ershadi said Iran "has exercised considerable restraint" and Israel "must bear full responsibility" for the consequences of the strike.
  • Israeli Defense Forces are on high alert, especially air defense and intelligence units, officials said. The Israeli military cancelled all weekend vacations for its combat soldiers.

Behind the scenes: Israeli officials claim they have intelligence that shows Iran could attack Israel from its soil using long-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles or drones.

  • The issue was discussed in detail during a phone call between Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Wednesday, according to an Israeli official.
  • U.S. and Israeli officials told Axios the two discussed how to coordinate better and prepare for escalation scenarios as a result of an Iranian retaliation.
  • The White House and the Pentagon declined to comment. The IDF and the Israeli prime minister's office also declined to comment.

Between the lines: U.S. officials claim Israel didn't coordinate its strike in Syria with the Biden administration and that Israel gave the U.S. a general notification when the Israeli jets were already in the air, without providing details about the target.

  • The U.S. distanced itself from the strike and told Iran that it "had no involvement" or advance knowledge of it.
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