Biden urges restraint on Israel after Iran’s drone and missile attack

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US President Joe Biden has urged Israel to show restraint after Iran’s drone and missile attack, as Washington seeks to de-escalate Middle East tensions and reduce the risk of a full-blown regional war.

Israel’s war cabinet met on Sunday to consider the Jewish state’s response to Iran’s attack, but had not yet made a decision on what action it would take, an Israeli government insider said.

The person added it was clear that Israel had to respond, “but just unclear when and how big”. 

Iran launched the attack, the first such assault from its own territory against Israel, as retaliation for a suspected Israeli strike on its consular building in Damascus this month that killed several Iranian commanders.

The strike on Saturday night came amid a wave of hostilities triggered by Hamas’s October 7 attack and Israel’s retaliatory response against the Palestinian militant group in Gaza.

Iran’s attack has intensified concerns that it will prompt an escalatory response from Israel and push the Middle East into a full-blown conflict.

Israel was discussing its options with all its main partners, especially the Biden administration, but the decision would ultimately rest with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet, the government insider said.

War cabinet member Benny Gantz said earlier on Sunday that Israel would respond “in the way and at the time that suits us”.

Biden had counselled Israel to take a measured approach. “The president has been clear. We don’t want to see this escalate,” said John Kirby, spokesperson for the US National Security Council, on NBC’s Meet the Press. “We’re not looking for a wider war with Iran.”

In a telephone call with Netanyahu after Iran’s attack, Biden told his Israeli counterpart that Israel had “come out far ahead” of the Islamic republic, a senior US official said. Biden said Israel had “clearly demonstrated its military superiority”, the official added.

Israeli officials said Iran had fired more than 300 projectiles, including 170 drones, 30 cruise missiles and 120 ballistic missiles at Israel beginning late on Saturday night and continuing over the course of several hours.

Iran-backed militants in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen also fired rockets, drones and missiles at Israel.

Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for Israel’s military, said 99 per cent of the barrage had been intercepted. A girl was critically injured by shrapnel in the south of the country and an air force base suffered minor damage, but there were no other reports of serious impacts, he added.

Hardliners in Netanyahu’s government demanded decisive action. “We need a crushing attack,” Itamar Ben-Gvir, the ultranationalist national security minister wrote on X, while Bezalel Smotrich, finance minister, said that if Israel “hesitates” then “we will put ourselves and our children in existential danger”.

General Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, said by targeting the Iranian consulate in Damascus in an attack on April 1, Israel had “crossed a red line that was unbearable”.

“The mission is accomplished and the operation is over and we have no intentions of going further,” Bagheri said, but if Israel opted to “commit any act against us, be it on our territory or our compounds in Syria and elsewhere, the next operation will be larger”.

Charles Michel, president of the EU Council, said a crisis meeting of G7 leaders on Sunday had “unanimously condemned Iran’s unprecedented attack against Israel”.

“All parties must exercise restraint. We will continue all our efforts to work towards de-escalation,” he added.

Michel also said that “ending the crisis in Gaza as soon as possible, notably through an immediate ceasefire, will make a difference”.

G7 leaders discussed the possibility of imposing additional sanctions against Iran in response to the attack, but no consensus was found on how they should be applied, a person briefed on the discussion said.

Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president, who also participated in the G7 meeting, said sanctions against Iran, targeting its drone and missile programmes, were being discussed.

The G7 leaders agreed the attacks represented a “major victory for Israel” given that almost all of the projectiles were shot down, and the country had received support and solidarity from all its western allies and some Middle Eastern powers.

Following a request from Israel, the UN Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for Sunday to discuss the attack.

Iranian lawmakers chanted slogans during an open session of the parliament in Tehran on Sunday © Icana News Agency/Zuma/eyevine

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