Israel draws up plans to attack Iran in response to drone strike

Israel has said it has drawn up plans to attack Iran in response to the unprecedented missile and drone strike.

On Sunday night, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the country’s war cabinet had approved both “offensive and defensive action” despite warnings from Western leaders.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, called off an immediate retaliation following intervention from Joe Biden, the US president, who asked him to “think carefully” about his next move.

But Israel said that it reserved the right to strike Iran at a “manner and time” of its choosing. It later told the United Nations that Iran had “crossed every red line” in its attack.

On Sunday night, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting to discuss Iran’s attack, after a request from Israel.

Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary general, told the council: “Regional, and indeed global peace and security are being undermined by the hour. Neither the region nor the world can afford more war.”

Speaking to the security council, Israel’s ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan refused to rule out a strike in retribution of Iran’s attack.

He said: “We are surrounded by Iran’s terror proxies. This attack crossed every red line and Israel reserves every right to retaliate.”

The Iranian ambassador to the UN said Tehran had an “inherent right to respond proportionately” if the US was to join any Israeli military operations against Iran.

US defence officials said Iran fired more than 100 ballistic missiles and hundreds of drones and rockets at Israel on Saturday in an attempt to overwhelm its air defences.

The warheads were mostly intercepted by a combination of the Israeli, American, French, Jordanian and British fighter jets and warships.

The attack, which Iran claimed was “legitimate self-defence”, came in response to the bombing of an Iranian consulate compound in Damascus earlier this month.

Israel has pledged to respond to the strike in kind, although the exact nature and timing of its operation is not yet clear.

Rishi Sunak called for “calm heads to prevail”, as Western leaders lined up to urge Israel to refrain from further escalation.

The Prime Minister said: “If this attack had been successful, the fallout for regional stability would be hard to overstate.”

Mr Biden told Mr Netanayhu in a call on Saturday night that the US would not join retaliatory strikes against Iran, and suggested he should “take the win” of minimal damage from the Iranian attack.

“The Israelis made clear to us they’re not looking for a significant escalation with Iran,” a US official said, adding that the president had “made very clear to the prime minister last night that we do have to think carefully and strategically about the risks of escalation”.

Mr Biden and Mr Sunak joined the heads of other G7 countries on a call to discuss the West’s next steps.

The leaders reportedly agreed to put diplomatic pressure on Israel not to inflame tensions with Iran further, risking a full-scale war between the two countries that would engulf the region.

In a joint statement, the G7 leaders said an “uncontrollable regional escalation…must be avoided”, adding: “We will continue to work to stabilise the situation and avoid further escalation.”

Iran said it was not considering another strike “at present” but that it would retaliate again if Israel launched a counter-attack.

“If the Zionist regime persists in its evil actions against Iran, by any means and to any extent, it will face a response at least tenfold greater and of similar nature,” the regime’s Supreme National Security Council said.

The attack came after days of threats by Ali Khamenei, the country’s Supreme Leader, pledging to “punish” Israel for the death of the consulate strike on April 1.

US intelligence officials gave Israel 72 hours’ notice that the attack was coming, after tip-offs from other Middle Eastern countries given warning by Iran.

On Saturday evening, Iran launched hundreds of drones from its territory towards Israel, followed by ballistic missiles and rockets from its proxy groups in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.

A video released on Iranian state television showed the message “‘we will make you regret it” written on the side of one of the missiles.

Mr Hagari said “99 per cent” of the weapons were shot down by fighter jets and warships from Israel, the US, UK and Jordan, with help from missile defence systems on the edge of Israeli territory.

One Iranian ballistic missile appeared to have been destroyed by Israel while it was outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

The RAF deployed four Typhoon fighter jets from Cyprus, and intercepted almost a dozen of the attack drones over Iraq and Syria, The Telegraph can reveal.

On Sunday, the RAF flew transporter aircraft out of a British airbase in the south of Cyprus towards Turkey, online GPS records show.

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The Ministry of Defence said it had sent resources to the region to bolster Israel’s defence but would not send one of the UK’s two aircraft carriers.

US officials said American fighter jets had shot down more than 70 exploding drones and two US Navy warships had destroyed between four and six ballistic missiles.

The officials said that Iran had deployed more than 300 drones and missiles, which was at the “high end” of what the Pentagon had expected. Mr Hagari said the weapons had a total of “60 tons of warheads and explosive materials”.

However, Iran’s notification of other countries in the region raised suspicion that it had intended for its warheads to be shot down and for the strike to be interpreted as a warning.

Jordan announced several hours before the launch that it was closing its airspace. Other countries in the region followed suit.

Some members of the Israeli war cabinet, including the former defence minister Benny Gantz, called for caution when weighing on a retaliation.

Mr Gantz said Israel needed to build a regional coalition to “make sure Iran pays the price, in the manner and time right for us”.

Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defence minister, said the incident could be used to build a coalition of allies against Iran, warning against action that would divide Israel from the West.

“We have an opportunity here to establish a strategic alliance against this serious threat from Iran, which threatens to put nuclear explosives on the heads of these missiles,” he said.

Mr Netanyahu during a war cabinet meeting at the Kirya in Tel Aviv on Sunday
Mr Netanyahu during a war cabinet meeting at the Kirya in Tel Aviv on Sunday - Israeli Prime Minister Office/AFP via Getty Images

Israel’s air defences remained on high alert on Sunday, while the IDF announced it had called up two reserve brigades for “operational activities on the Gaza front” ahead of an expected assault on Rafah.

Mr Netanyahu is reportedly considering delaying the Rafah offensive in the aftermath of Iran’s attack on Israel, following weeks of dispute with the US about whether it should go ahead at all.

The US and UK have argued that the plans would worsen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and make it more difficult to recover hostages held by Hamas.

Israel argues that Hamas is sheltering battalions of its fighters in the south of the territory and its war on the group cannot be completed until the IDF occupies the entire strip.

Calls to designate IRGC ‘terrorists’

Iran’s offensive has also reignited calls for the UK to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organisation, after some Tory MPs and the Labour Party said it should be treated by the Home Office as a proscribed organisation.

David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, said ministers should “come forward with new plans to proscribe them and to deal with this issue of state actors that will behave in this appalling way that wreaks terror on a wider community”.

Victoria Atkins, the Health Secretary, said the Government keeps “all of these issues under constant review,” but pointed to the diplomatic value of talking “directly with Iran”.

The Foreign Office on Sunday summoned the Iranian embassy’s charges d’affaires and condemned Iran’s “profoundly dangerous and unnecessary escalation,” calling for an end to its “reckless and unlawful behaviour”.


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