Apr 15, 2024 - World

What to know about Iran's attack on Israel

A damaged Israel flag and along with Iranian and Palestinian flags held by Iranian demonstrators in  Tehran on April 5.

A damaged Israel flag and along with Iranian and Palestinian flags held by Iranian demonstrators in Tehran on April 5. Photo: Hossein Beris/Middle East Images/AFP via Getty Images

The decades-long proxy war between Israel and Iran entered an unprecedented chapter over the weekend after Iran launched a massive drone and missile attack against Israel in retaliation for an April 1 Israeli airstrike on its embassy compound in Syria that killed a top Iranian general and others.

Why it matters: The two countries risk sparking an overt war that could devolve into a wider Middle East conflict if they cannot avoid further escalation.

What happened during Iran's attack:

Iran and its proxies launched over 300 drones and missiles against Israel on Saturday night — its first-ever attack on Israel from Iranian territory. Most of the drones and missiles were intercepted by Israeli, U.S., British, French, Jordanian and Saudi forces outside of Israeli airspace.

  • Iran's leaders said shortly after the Damascus strike that they would "punish" Israel.
  • Israeli officials reported that a 7-year-old girl was seriously injured by missile fragments and eight other people were treated for minor injuries from shrapnel or running for shelter during the attack.
  • Israel also said one of its air bases received slight damage.

Why Iran says it launched the attack:

Iran said its attack was allowed by international law in retaliation for the Israeli airstrike earlier this month.

  • Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force in Syria and Lebanon, was killed in the strike, as were five other IRGC officials.
  • Zahedi was the most senior IRGC officer to killed since the assassination of Qasem Soleimani by the U.S. in January 2020.

What Israel has said:

In response to Iran's attack, Israeli officials said they are considering their options for retaliation.

  • Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday that Israel has no choice but to respond, Axios' Barak Ravid reports.
  • The Israeli war cabinet convened on Monday to discuss a possible response.
  • Gen. Herzi Halevi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, said Monday that "Israel is considering next steps" and that "the launch of so many missiles and drones to Israeli territory will be answered with a retaliation."

What the U.S. and other countries have said:

President Biden and several other Western countries have warned Israel that further escalation could lead to a regional war.

  • On Saturday, President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the U.S. will not support any Israeli counterattack against Iran.

The National Security Council's John Kirby said Monday that retaliation is Israel's choice to make and emphasized that the U.S. has not been involved in its decision making.

  • Kirby said President Biden made clear privately and publicly that he doesn't want to see the war in Gaza escalate and turn into a regional conflict.

Leaders of G7 countries condemned Iran's attack in a statement on Sunday and expressed "full solidarity and support" for Israel.

Go deeper: Israel vows to retaliate against Iran for missile attacks

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