Iran and Israel’s open warfare after decades of shadow war

(Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed his country would achieve victory after the military said it shot down almost all of the more than 300 drones and missiles launched by Iran in a sharp escalation of the Middle East conflict.

The first direct Iranian attack on its arch-foe after a suspected air strike on Tehran’s embassy compound in Damascus on April 1 is part of a wider escalation since the war in Gaza began last year, but their enmity stretches back decades.

Iran and Israel — the Middle East’s most implacable foes — have a long history of shadow wars and clandestine attacks by land, sea, air and cyberspace.

1979 – Iran’s pro-Western leader Mohammed Reza Shah, who regarded Israel as an ally, is swept from power in an Islamic Revolution that installs a new theocratic regime with its opposition to Israel an ideological imperative.

1982 – As Israel invades Lebanon, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards work with fellow Shi’ite Muslims there to set up Hezbollah. Israel will eventually see the armed group as the most dangerous adversary on its borders.

1983 – Iran-backed Hezbollah uses suicide bombings to expel Western and Israeli forces from Lebanon. In November a car packed with explosives drives into the headquarters of the Israeli military. Israel later withdraws from much of Lebanon.

1992-94 – Argentina and Israel accuse Iran and Hezbollah of being behind suicide bombings on Israel’s embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and a Jewish centre in the city in 1994, each of which killed dozens of people.

Iran and Hezbollah deny responsibility.

2002 – Revelation that Iran has a secret uranium enrichment programme prompts concern that it is trying to build a nuclear weapon, which it denies. Israel urges tough action against Tehran.

2006 – Israel fights Hezbollah in a month-long war in Lebanon but is unable to crush the heavily armed group.

2009 – Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech calling Israel “a dangerous and fatal cancer”.

2010 – Stuxnet, a malicious computer virus widely believed to have been developed by the United States and Israel, was used to attack a uranium enrichment facility at Iran’s Natanz nuclear site. It was the first publicly known cyberattack on industrial machinery.

2012 – Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan was killed by a bomb placed on his car by a motorcyclist in Tehran. A city official blamed Israel for the attack.

2018 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hails U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers after years of lobbying against the agreement, calling Trump’s decision “a historic move”.

In May Israel says it had struck Iranian military infrastructure in Syria – where Tehran was backing President Bashar al-Assad in the civil war – after Iranian forces there fired rockets at Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

2020 – Israel welcomes the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the overseas arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, in an American drone strike in Baghdad. Iran strikes back with missile attacks on Iraqi bases housing American troops. About 100 U.S. military personnel were injured.

2021 – Iran blames Israel for the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was seen by Western intelligence services as the mastermind of a covert Iranian programme to develop nuclear weapons capability. Tehran has long-denied any such ambition.

2022 – U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid sign a joint pledge to deny Iran nuclear arms in a show of unity by allies long divided over diplomacy with Tehran.

The undertaking, part of a “Jerusalem Declaration” crowning Biden’s first visit to Israel as president, was made a day after he told a local TV station that he was open to “last resort” use of force against Iran – an apparent move toward accommodating Israel’s calls for a “credible military threat” by world powers.

2024 – A suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus kills seven officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, including two senior commanders. Israel neither confirmed or denied responsibility.

Iran responds with the April 13 barrage of drones and missiles in an unprecedented direct attack on Israeli territory.

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