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Iran launches attack against Israel with missiles, drones in response to Syria strike

Middle East tensions are at an all-time high as the US military moved more forces to the region and multiple countries closed their airspaces in response to Iran's unprecedented attack. A 7-year-old Bedouin girl was reportedly injured by debris in the Negev region.
Israel's Iron Dome air defense system intercepts rockets launched from Gaza City, in Sderot on May 10, 2023.

Iran on Saturday launched an attack against Israel in retaliation for the April 1 strike on its consulate in Syria, firing hundreds of drones and cruise missiles, most of which were intercepted. 

The escalation has regional tensions at an all-time high, as the United States has moved more forces to the region while Jordan and Iraq closed their airspace. Israel called for a United Nations Security Council meeting, set to convene on Sunday, as US President Joe Biden called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to affirm Washington’s support. 

The attack started at night in Israel, with three waves of drones en route to the country from Iran. Other fronts in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen were activated by proxies backed by Iran who launched rockets and drones at Israel. Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari confirmed Saturday evening that an Iranian attack was underway. Two US defense officials confirmed to Al-Monitor that the anticipated Iranian attack against Israel had begun around 3:40 p.m. ET (10:40 p.m. local time).

Hundreds of drones

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps confirmed that it launched drones and missiles. At least one casualty was reported in Israel of a 7-year-old girl injured in the Negev region. Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba said it had received 12 people suffering from shrapnel-related injuries amid last night's attack.

Sabereen reported that drones were seen in Iraqi airspace, including above Basra in the south and Sulaimaniyah in the Kurdistan Region. The outlet additionally claimed that dozens of drones were launched from Iran toward Israel, citing Israeli media.

Around 1:48 a.m. local time Sunday in Israel, or 6:48 p.m. ET, sirens were reported across the country. The sirens sounded in the south of Israel, in the center of the country in Negev, Dimona and in Jerusalem. Interceptions, meanwhile, were reported over Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, and in the Ramat Gan and Bat Yam suburbs of Tel Aviv. 

Other drones were intercepted before landing in Israel. A US military official confirmed to Al-Monitor that US forces in the region continue to shoot down Iranian-launched drones targeting Israel. "Our forces remain postured to provide additional defensive support and to protect US forces operating in the region," the official said. 

A meeting of Israel's war cabinet convened after midnight local time and will be followed by a meeting of the wider security cabinet.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Channel 12 reported that Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport closed for at least three hours, while also reporting that Zion Wing — Israel’s Air Force One — took off from Nevatim Air Base, southeast of Beersheba. Israeli media later reported that the aircraft was being moved to a safer location. 

Around 1:30 a.m. local time (6:00 p.m. ET), Iran's permanent mission to the United Nations posted on X that "Iran’s military action was in response to the Zionist regime’s aggression against our diplomatic premises in Damascus," adding, "The matter can be deemed concluded. However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe." It also issued a warning to the United States, writing "US MUST STAY AWAY!"

By 3:15 a.m. local time (8:15 p.m. ET), Hagari said that more than 200 missiles and drones were launched toward Israel by Iran, noting that most of them were intercepted by defense systems. Ten cruise missiles were intercepted outside of Israel’s airspace, he said, while only a few missiles fell within Israeli territory. An army base in the south of Israel was hit but sustained only light damage to its infrastructure, he added. Hagari warned that the Iranian attack was not finished and that more cruise missiles are headed toward Israel.

Shortly before Hagari's announcement, senior Israeli officials told Israel’s public broadcaster Kan that 99% of the projectiles had been intercepted.

Jordanian airspace 

Reuters reported that Jordan’s air defenses are prepared to shoot down any Iranian drones or aircraft that violate its airspace, citing regional security sources. The Jordanian army is in a high state of alert and monitoring drone activity from the direction of Iraq and Syria, the sources told the outlet.

Iranian state media: Ballistic missiles launched

Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency reported that a first batch of ballistic missiles has been launched toward Israel. An “informed source” told the outlet that the missiles were fired “at targets deep in the occupied territories.” Israeli media reported, however, that there was no confirmation from authorities that ballistic missiles had been launched.

Biden calls Netanyahu

White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson confirmed the attack. She said that US President Joe Biden "is being regularly updated on the situation by his national security team and will meet with them this afternoon at the White House." Watson added that the attack "is likely to unfold over a number of hours."

Biden cut short a weekend trip to Delaware on Saturday for consultations at the White House about the attack, and he called Netanyahu late on Saturday.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps warned the US against any support for and participation in the harming of Iran’s interests. “Any threat from America and the Zionist entity, coming from any state, the Islamic Republic of Iran will respond to the source of the threat,” said the Revolutionary Guards in a statement at around 3:00 a.m. local time (7:30 p.m. ET), according to Tasnim News Agency.

Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant spoke with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in the early hours of Sunday, the fourth call this week between the two. "Minister Gallant briefed the Secretary about Israel's defensive operations in the face of Iran's attack, and emphasized that the defense establishment is prepared for any further attempts to attack the State of Israel," according to a statement released by Gallant's office after the call. 

US military 'ready to act'

US military forces in the region were “postured and ready to act if directed” to defend Israel and American forces against the Iranian attack, an official said.

The United States sent additional F-15 fighter jets to the region this week in preparation for Iran’s expected retaliation.

Open source flight tracking indicated at least one US Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft was airborne over Iraq, though it was unclear if US fighter jets had been scrambled.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps warned the US against any support for and participation in the harming of Iran’s interests. “Any threat from America and the Zionist entity, coming from any state, the Islamic Republic of Iran will respond to the source of the threat,” the Revolutionary Guards in a statement, according to Tasnim.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had vowed this week retaliation against Israel following a suspected Israeli strike on April 1 that hit the Iranian consulate in Damascus, killing seven members of the Revolutionary Guards, some in the leadership. 

US officials have anticipated an imminent response by Iran. Biden said on Friday that retaliation is expected "sooner rather than later." 

Hormuz strait tension

Tensions reached new heights on Saturday morning when the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized a container ship near the Strait of Hormuz, Iranian state media reported. It said the ship has ties "to the Zionist regime (Israel)."

The ship's operator, the Italian-Swiss group MSC, later confirmed Iranian authorities had boarded it, Agence France-Presse reported. 

"We call on Iran to release the vessel and its international crew immediately," said National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson.

Later on Saturday at around 10 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET), Jordan closed its airspace. The kingdom’s aviation authority announced the country is temporarily closing its airspace to all aircraft movement starting Saturday tonight, Arabic media reported.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant for a third time this week on Saturday. 

The two discussed "urgent regional threats and reiterated unwavering US support for Israel's defense. Secretary Austin made clear that Israel could count on full US support to defend Israel against any attacks by Iran and its regional proxies," the Pentagon said. 

Israeli schools close

Hagari announced Saturday evening a change in Home Front instructions to the Israeli civilian population due to the fear of an imminent Iranian attack. Hagari said that following an assessment of the situation over the weekend, it was decided that starting Saturday 11:00 p.m. local time (4:00 p.m. ET), the defense policies will we readapted. No education activities will be permitted all over the country until further notice. Additionally, no school trips will be permitted, Hagari said. Outdoor camping will also be banned, and in some areas, gatherings of more than 1,000 people will be prohibited.

Netanyahu was on his way to the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv later on Saturday for a war cabinet meeting, the second in less than 24 hours. Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz canceled his trip to Austria and Hungary on Sunday due to the situation. 

Lebanon front

Israel carried out airstrikes in south Lebanon on Saturday, as it activated all its defense systems in the north and in the Golan Heights on Syrian border. 

Hezbollah said its fighters fired dozens of Katyusha rockets at an Israeli air and missile defense position in the Golan Heights. The launch occurred at 12:35 a.m. local time (5:35 p.m. ET), the group’s news agency Al-Manar reported.

West Bank tension

Tensions are also at a fever pitch in the West Bank after the body of 14-year old Israeli Benjamin Achimeir was found Saturday morning, one day after he went missing on the outskirts of Malachi Hashalom, a settler outpost outside Ramallah. After the Israeli defense establishment said it was a presumed act of terror, scores of settlers attacked Palestinians in the village of al-Mughayyir, setting fire to homes and cars.

Separately, a US defense official told Al-Monitor on Friday that American military assets are being moved into the region.

“We are moving additional assets to the region to bolster regional deterrence efforts and increase force protection for US forces,” the official said.

They added, “Our enemies think they can put a wedge between Israel and the United States, but the contrary is true. They bring us closer together and deepen the connection between us. We are standing shoulder to shoulder in our battle.”

This Friday meeting came in addition to a meeting between Kurilla and IDF chief of staff Herzi Halevi.

The escalation has prompted France, Canada, Australia and others to issue a warning to their citizens on Friday against any travel to Israel, Lebanon, Iran and the Palestinian territories.

German air carrier Lufthansa suspended flights to and from Tehran at least until Saturday.

United Nations 

Israel’s envoy to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, asked the United Nations Security Council to hold an emergency meeting in order to "condemn unequivocally the attack by Iran against Israel and recognize the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terror group."

This is a developing story and will be updated.