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US forces shoot down Iranian drones flying towards Israel after missile attack

Author
AP,
Publish Date
Sun, 14 Apr 2024, 9:43am

US forces shoot down Iranian drones flying towards Israel after missile attack

Author
AP,
Publish Date
Sun, 14 Apr 2024, 9:43am

US forces have shot down some Iran-launched attack drones flying toward Israel.

President Joe Biden and his national security team monitored Iran’s aerial attack against Israel as US forces joined efforts to down explosive-laden drones launched by Tehran.

Booms and air raid sirens sounded across Israel after Iran launched hundreds of drones, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles in an unprecedented revenge mission that pushed the Middle East closer to a regionwide war.

Several countries, including New Zealand, have condemned the attack.

“New Zealand joins the international community in condemning Iran’s attacks on Israel”, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters wrote on X.

“We are gravely concerned that such actions take the region closer towards wider regional conflict.”

Peters continues by saying “escalation and retaliation do not equal self-defence under international law”.

“We expect both sides to now refrain from fuelling tensions.”

Iran’s attack marked the first time the country has launched a direct military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Condemnation from the United Nations chief and others was swift, with France saying Iran “is risking a potential military escalation,” Britain calling the attack “reckless” and Germany saying Iran and its proxies “must stop it immediately.”

The Israeli military’s spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said Iran fired scores of drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles - with the vast majority intercepted outside Israel’s borders. He said warplanes intercepted over 10 cruise missiles alone, also outside Israeli airspace.

Iranian demonstrators wave a Palestinian flag during their anti-Israeli gathering in Tehran, Iran, earlier today. Photo / AP
Iranian demonstrators wave a Palestinian flag during their anti-Israeli gathering in Tehran, Iran, earlier today. Photo / AP

He said a handful of missiles managed to land in Israel. Rescuers said one strike critically wounded a 10-year-old girl in a Bedouin Arab town in southern Israel, while Hagari said another missile struck an army base, causing light damage but no injuries.

“A wide-scale attack by Iran is a major escalation,” Hagari said. Asked whether Israel would respond, Hagari said only that the army “does and will do whatever is required to protect the security of the state of Israel.”

US forces downed some of the Iran-launched drones flying toward Israel, according to a US defence official and two US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter.

Iran had vowed revenge since an April 1 airstrike in Syria killed two Iranian generals inside an Iranian consular building. Iran accused Israel of being behind the attack. Israel hasn’t commented on it.

Israel and Iran have been on a collision course throughout Israel’s six-month war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. The war erupted after Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two militant groups backed by Iran, carried out a devastating cross-border attack on October 7 that killed 1200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. An Israeli offensive in Gaza has caused widespread devastation and killed over 33,000 people, according to local health officials.

In this image provided by the White House, President Joe Biden, along with members of his national security team, receive an update on the ongoing attack on Israel from Iran. Photo / The White House via AP
In this image provided by the White House, President Joe Biden, along with members of his national security team, receive an update on the ongoing attack on Israel from Iran. Photo / The White House via AP

Almost immediately after the war erupted, Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militant group in Lebanon, began attacking Israel’s northern border. The two sides have been involved in daily exchanges of fire, while Iranian-backed groups in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have launched rockets and missiles toward Israel.

In a statement by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency, the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard acknowledged launching “dozens of drones and missiles towards the occupied territories and positions of the Zionist regime.”

In a later statement, the Revolutionary Guard issued a direct warning to the US: “The terrorist US government is warned any support or participation in harming Iran’s interests will be followed by decisive and regretting response by Iran’s armed forces.”

IRNA also quoted an anonymous official saying ballistic missiles were part of the attack. A ballistic missile moves on an arch trajectory, heading up into space before gravity brings the weapon down at a speed several times faster than the speed of sound.

The Israeli Iron Dome air defence system launches to intercept missiles fired from Iran, in central Israel. Photo / AP
The Israeli Iron Dome air defence system launches to intercept missiles fired from Iran, in central Israel. Photo / AP

Israel has a multilayered air-defence network that includes systems capable of intercepting a variety of threats including long-range missiles, cruise missiles, drones and short-range rockets. However, in a massive attack involving multiple drones and missiles, the likelihood of a strike making it through is higher.

Iran has a vast arsenal of drones and missiles. Online videos shared by Iranian state television purported to show delta-wing-style drones resembling the Iranian Shahed-136s long used by Russia in its war on Ukraine. The slow-flying drones carry bombs. Ukraine has successfully used both surface-to-air missiles and ground fire to target them.

Air raid sirens were reported in numerous places including northern Israel, southern Israel, the northern West Bank and the Dead Sea near the Jordanian border.

Israel’s army ordered residents in the Golan Heights — near the Syrian and Lebanese borders — as well as the southern towns of Nevatim and Dimona and the Red Sea resort of Eilat “to stay near protective spaces until further notice.” Dimona is home to Israel’s main nuclear facility, and Nevatim has a major air base.

The army’s Home Front Command cancelled school Sunday and limited public gatherings to no more than 1000 people. Israel and some other countries in the region closed their airspace.

Earlier Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned: “Whoever harms us, we will harm them.” Photo / AP
Earlier Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned: “Whoever harms us, we will harm them.” Photo / AP

Earlier Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned: “Whoever harms us, we will harm them.”

In Washington, President Joe Biden cut short a weekend trip to his beach house in Delaware to return to the White House. He was set to convene a principals meeting of the National Security Council on Saturday to discuss the unfolding attack, the White House said.

“The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defence against these threats from Iran,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

US President Joe Biden has cut short a weekend trip to his beach house in Delaware to return to the White House and monitor the situation. Photo / AP
US President Joe Biden has cut short a weekend trip to his beach house in Delaware to return to the White House and monitor the situation. Photo / AP

General Erik Kurilla, the head of the US military’s Central Command, was in Israel over the weekend consulting with Israeli defence officials. The Central Command oversees US forces in the Middle East.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations issued a warning to both Israel and the US “Should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe,” it wrote online. “It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, from which the US MUST STAY AWAY!”

For days, Iranian officials including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had threatened to “slap” Israel for its Syria strike.

This is a locator map for Iran with its capital, Tehran. Map / AP
This is a locator map for Iran with its capital, Tehran. Map / AP

In Iran’s capital, Tehran, witnesses have reported long lines at gas stations as people appeared worried about what may come next. Dozens of hard-liners demonstrated in support of the attack at Palestine Square.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported heavy Israeli airstrikes and shelling on multiple locations in south Lebanon following Iran’s launch of drones. The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah said it launched “dozens” of Katyusha rockets at an Israeli military site in the Golan Heights early Sunday, US time. It was not immediately clear if there was any damage.

Iranian missiles or drones were intercepted in the sky above the Jordanian capital, Amman. In Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, and elsewhere in the country, residents reported seeing missiles in the sky and hearing explosions, likely from interceptions. In Syria, explosions were heard in the capital, Damascus, and elsewhere. Britain-based war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Syrian air defences tried to shoot down Israeli attempts to intercept Iranian missiles.

Iran’s revolutionary guards seize a container ship

Earlier Saturday, commandos from Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard rappelled from a helicopter onto an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the vessel.

Iran’s state-run IRNA said a special forces unit of the Guard’s navy carried out the attack on the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime.

A video shows commandos raiding a ship near the Strait of Hormuz by helicopter on Saturday, an attack a Mideast defence official attributed to Iran amid wider tensions between Tehran and the West. Photo / AP
A video shows commandos raiding a ship near the Strait of Hormuz by helicopter on Saturday, an attack a Mideast defence official attributed to Iran amid wider tensions between Tehran and the West. Photo / AP

Zodiac Maritime is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. Zodiac declined to comment and referred questions to MSC. Geneva-based MSC acknowledged the seizure and said 25 crew members were on the ship.

“We are working closely with the relevant authorities to ensure their wellbeing, and safe return of the vessel,” MSC said.

Adrienne Watson, the White House National Security Council spokesperson, said the crew was made up of Indian, Filipino, Pakistani, Russian and Estonian nationals and urged Iran to release them and the vessel.

IRNA said the Guard would take the vessel into Iranian territorial waters.

A Middle East defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, provided video of the attack to The Associated Press in which Iranian commandos are seen rappelling onto a stack of containers on the vessel’s deck.

The video corresponded with known details of the MSC Aries. The commandos rappelled from what appeared to be a Soviet-era Mil Mi-17 helicopter, which both the Guard and the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen have used before to raid ships.

This article was originally published on the NZ Herald here. 

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