Israel's dilemma: Preparing for retaliation amid global pleas for restraint

Israel is bracing for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's response to Iran’s unprecedented direct attack, as international calls for restraint intensify due to concerns about escalating Middle Eastern conflicts. On Monday, Netanyahu convened his war cabinet for the second time in 24 hours to deliberate on a response to Iran's missile and drone strike over the weekend, according to a government source.

Publication: 16.04.2024 - 11:13
Israel's dilemma: Preparing for retaliation amid global pleas for restraint
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Israel's Military Chief of Staff, Herzi Halevi, confirmed that Israel would react, though he did not provide specific details. “This launch of many missiles, cruise missiles, and drones into Israeli territory will be met with a response,” Halevi stated during a briefing at the Nevatim Airbase in southern Israel, which suffered some damage during Saturday night's attack.

The possibility of Israeli retaliation has heightened anxiety among Iranians, who have been facing economic difficulties and increased social and political restrictions since protests in 2022-23. President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran warned that any action against Iranian interests would provoke a response, a statement he made to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani on Tuesday, as reported by the Iranian Student News Agency.

Iran initiated the attack in retaliation for what it claims was an Israeli airstrike on April 1 targeting its embassy compound in Damascus. Iran has indicated it does not seek further escalation. Despite causing no fatalities and limited damage, the attack has stoked fears of outright war between the longstanding adversaries and has raised concerns that the ongoing violence in Gaza is expanding.

Over the weekend, U.S. President Joe Biden informed Netanyahu that the United States, which assisted Israel in countering the Iranian attack, would not engage in an Israeli counter-strike. Since the onset of the Gaza war in October, hostilities have flared between Israel and Iran-aligned groups across Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. Recently, Israel reported that four of its soldiers were injured hundreds of meters inside Lebanese territory, marking the first such incident since the Gaza conflict began, although skirmishes with Hezbollah have occurred.

The European Union’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, expressed the urgency of de-escalation in an interview with Spanish radio station Onda Cero, saying, “We're on the edge of the cliff and we have to move away from it. We have to step on the brakes and reverse gear.” Similar calls for restraint came from French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron. The White House and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also have urged caution.

John Kirby, the White House national security spokesman, declined to confirm whether Biden had advised Netanyahu to restrain his response during their discussion on Saturday night. “We don't want to see a war with Iran. We don't want to see a regional conflict,” Kirby stated at a briefing, noting that the decision on whether and how to respond rests with Israel.

Amid these tensions, the G7 nations, led by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, are considering a coordinated package of sanctions against Iran, reflecting a united stance against the attack. Italy, currently presiding over the G7, indicated openness to new sanctions targeting individuals, as stated by Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani in a Reuters interview. Meanwhile, disruptions continue, with several airlines canceling or rerouting flights and European aviation regulators advising caution in Israeli and Iranian airspace.

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