US Will Not Take Part in Any Israeli Retaliatory Action Against Iran

April 15, 2024, 05.56 AM | Source: Reuters
US Will Not Take Part in Any Israeli Retaliatory Action Against Iran

ILUSTRASI. An anti-missile system operates after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel April 14, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen 

MIDDLE EAST - JERUSALEM/DUBAI/WASHINGTON. President Joe Biden warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the U.S. will not take part in a counter-offensive against Iran, an option Netanyahu's war cabinet favors after a mass drone and missile attack on Israeli territory, according to officials.

The threat of open warfare erupting between the arch Middle East foes and dragging in the United States put the region on edge, triggering calls for restraint from global powers and Arab nations to avoid further escalation.

"The Middle East is on the brink. The people of the region are confronting a real danger of a devastating full-scale conflict. Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate," United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a Security Council meeting called on Sunday in response to the strikes.

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Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Robert Wood called on the council to unequivocally condemn Iran's attack, as he said Washington would explore additional, unspecified measures at the United Nations to hold Iran accountable and warned against further aggression.

"Let me be clear: if Iran or its proxies take actions against the United States or further action against Israel, Iran will be held responsible," he said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that while the United States does not seek escalation, it will continue to take all necessary action to defend Israel and U.S. personnel, a Pentagon spokesperson said.

Israeli officials said Netanyahu's five-member war cabinet favored retaliation in a meeting on Sunday, although the panel was divided over the timing and scale of any such response.

Iran launched the attack over a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria on April 1 that killed top Revolutionary Guards commanders and followed months of clashes between Israel and Iran's regional allies, triggered by the war in Gaza.

However, the attack by more than 300 missiles and drones caused only modest damage in Israel. Most were shot down by Israel's Iron Dome defense system and with help from the U.S., Britain, France and Jordan.

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An Israeli Air Force base was hit but continued to operate as normal and shrapnel seriously hurt a 7-year-old. There were no other reports of serious damage.

Two senior Israeli ministers signalled on Sunday that retaliation was not imminent and that Israel would not act alone.

"We will build a regional coalition and exact the price from Iran in the fashion and timing that is right for us," centrist minister Benny Gantz said ahead of a war cabinet meeting.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant also said Israel had an opportunity to form a strategic alliance "against this grave threat by Iran, which is threatening to mount nuclear explosives on these missiles, which could be an extremely grave threat," he said. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons.

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Gantz and Gallant are Israeli war cabinet members with decision-making powers.

Israel remained on high alert, but authorities lifted some emergency measures that had included a ban on some school activities and caps on large gatherings.

Drone and missile interceptions cost around 4.5 billion shekels ($1.2 billion), according to Israel's Channel 13 News, which said Washington funded some of the cost.

Iranian army chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri said on television, "Our response will be much larger than tonight's military action if Israel retaliates against Iran," and told Washington that its bases could also be attacked if it helped Israel retaliate.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Tehran had informed the United States its attack on Israel would be limited and for self-defence and that regional neighbours had been informed of its planned strikes 72 hours in advance.

A Turkish diplomatic source said Iran had informed Turkey in advance.

Iran said the attack was aimed at punishing "Israeli crimes," but it now "deemed the matter concluded."

The leaders of the Group of 7 nations condemned Iran's attack and said they would work to stabilize the situation, warning in a statement that Tehran risked "an uncontrollable regional escalation."

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Analysts debated whether Iran's attack was calibrated to cause genuine devastation in Israel, or to save face at home after vows of revenge while avoiding a major new war.

"I think the Iranians took into consideration the fact that Israel has a very, very strong multi-layer anti-missile system and they probably took into consideration that there will not be too many casualties," said Sima Shine, a former senior Mossad official at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

In Gaza, Iran's attack drew applause as rare payback for an Israeli offensive that has killed at least 33,000 people.

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"We have been slaughtered for over six months and no one dared to do anything. Now Iran, after its consulate was hit, is hitting back at Israel and this brings joy into our hearts," said Majed Abu Hamza of Gaza City.

The war in Gaza, which Israel invaded after an attack by Iran-backed Hamas on Oct. 7, has spread to fronts with Iran-aligned groups in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

Netanyahu has long advocated a tough military line against Iran, pushing Washington for harder action over Tehran's nuclear program and its backing for militant groups in the region.

In Israel, although there was alarm at the first direct attack from another country in more than three decades, the mood contrasted with the trauma after the Hamas-led attack on Oct.7.

"I think we've been given license to respond now. I mean it was a major attack from Iran... I imagine Israel will respond and may be over quickly and get back to normal life," said Jeremy Smith, 60.

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In Iran, state television showed small gatherings in several cities celebrating the attack, but in private some Iranians were worried about Israel's response.

"Iran gave Netanyahu a golden opportunity to attack our country. But we, the people of Iran, will bear the brunt of this conflict," said Shima, a nurse, from Tehran. ($1 = 3.7622 shekels)

Editor: Yudho Winarto

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