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IDF chief of staff says Israel will respond to Iran missile attack | Israel

Israel’s top general says the country will respond to Iran’s missile and drone attacks, but it remains unclear what form that response will take and whether it will be so forceful that it could tip a spiral of violence growing towards a large-scale regional war.

U.S. officials said Monday that some form of counterattack to the Iranian attack, which involved more than 300 missiles and drones, was almost inevitable, but the Biden administration still hoped it would be a counterattack limited and not directed against Iranian territory.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi gave the clearest confirmation yet since the attack that Israel would retaliate.

“This launching of so many missiles, cruise missiles and drones on Israeli territory will provoke a response,” Halevi said, speaking from the Nevatim air base in southern Israel, which was lightly damaged during the attack.

Israel’s war cabinet met for the fourth time in the past two days Monday afternoon, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, and Benny Gantz, the former minister of Defense and Netanyahu’s centrist rival, again discussed how to walk the tightrope between escalation and deterrence.

“We respect the fact that this is a decision that the war cabinet, the prime minister, has to make. We know they live in a very difficult neighborhood,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told CNN on Monday. But he added that Joe Biden had “also made it very clear that we do not want a war with Iran. We are not seeking to widen this conflict. We don’t want to see things get out of hand. »

John Kirby speaking to the media in Washington on Monday. Photograph: Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters

A series of options were discussed during a meeting that lasted several hours, Israeli channel N12 News reported, which would show Iran that its actions have crossed a red line without triggering an even bigger response , as Tehran threatened.

N12 reported that Israel intended to coordinate its response with the United States, but the Biden administration has repeatedly stated that it will not participate in or witness any Israeli counterattack. U.S. officials appeared resigned Monday that the Israeli government would ignore Biden’s advice to “achieve victory” by having shot down the overwhelming majority of Iranian missiles and drones Saturday night and Sunday morning, and that there would be some sort of Israeli intervention. answer.

The Israeli military claims to have shot down 99% of drones and ballistic and cruise missiles. But it was later reported that many of the Iranian munitions either failed to launch or fell far short of hitting their targets. In the end, only four Iranian missiles struck in and around the Nevatim base.

Damaged area at a location indicated by the IDF as Nevatim Air Base. Photograph: Israel Defense Forces/Reuters

The Biden administration, however, remained hopeful that the counterattack would not physically target anything on Iranian soil, but would take the form of a large-scale cyberattack, or target an Iranian proxy or military target. Iranian, like a drone. manufacturing plant, in a third country such as Lebanon, Syria or Iraq.

Officials suggested that another possibility would be a covert attack on a target in Iran, which would not be explicitly recognized by Israel but would be widely known to have been carried out by Israeli special forces or intelligence services.

In recent decades, there have been a series of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and explosions at sensitive military sites that have been attributed to Israel, but any overt attack on military sites or target infrastructure in Iran would be perceived differently by Tehran, which threatened further escalation, making all-out war much more likely.

Some Israeli security officials may view this weekend’s developments as an opportunity to go after Iran’s nuclear facilities, where Iranian technicians have moved much closer to producing weapons-grade uranium since the failure of the 2015 nuclear deal, triggered by Donald Trump’s unilateral agreement. withdrawal of the agreement.

As with Saturday’s attack on Israel, the number of casualties or damage caused by direct Israeli retaliation would likely determine Iran’s next action.

Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken contacted Israel’s Arab neighbors on Sunday and Monday to reassure them of Washington’s position: They urged Netanyahu not to respond to the Iranian attack and that the United States would not play no role in an Israeli counterattack. .

France, whose planes played a role in shooting down Iranian munitions on Sunday, joined the chorus of foreign powers calling for Israeli restraint. “We have had an air base in Jordan for several years to fight against terrorism,” Emmanuel Macron told the BFM TV news channel. “Jordanian airspace was violated… We took off our planes and we intercepted what we were supposed to intercept.”

Macron echoed Biden’s position, saying France would help strengthen Israeli defenses but would not accept a counterattack on Iranian territory. “We will do everything to avoid a conflagration, that is to say an escalation,” declared the French president. “We must stand with Israel to ensure its maximum protection, but also to call for a limit to avoid escalation.”

He said the international community should focus on “isolating Iran, convincing regional countries that Iran poses a danger, increasing sanctions and increasing pressure on nuclear activities”.

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