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IRAN’S UNPRECEDENTED ATTACK ON ISRAEL

Close to midnight on April 13, hundreds of military drones were launched from both Iran and Iraq toward Israel. Subsequently, several waves of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and rockets followed, originating from Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon – all directed at Israel.

This unprecedented multi-front attack on Israel constitutes a de facto declaration of war and marks the first direct assault against Israel from Iranian soil. However, despite the scale of the operation, it appears to be a tactical failure.

If Iran wanted to test Israel’s ability to deal with a multi-front aerial assault, than the Israeli score is almost a perfect 100. According to the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), 99% of the more than 330 weapons fired at Israel (at least 185 drones, 110 surfaceto-surface missiles and 36 cruise missiles) were intercepted mostly over other countries. Only minor damage occurred at the Nevatim Airbase (near Be’er Sheva in the south). A 7-year-old girl was seriously injured by shrapnel, possibly from an intercepting unit.

WHY IRAN FELT IT HAD TO ACT

The attack was a direct response to the killing of Iranian General Mohammad Reza Zahedi (also known as Hassan Mahdawi) in Israeli airstrikes on April 1.

Zahedi, a senior commander in the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force in Syria and Lebanon, was allegedly responsible for terror attacks against Israel and the arming of Iranian proxies in the region. His death occurred while he was in a building adjacent to Iran’s consulate in Damascus – a location the Iranians claimed is protected by international law.

This incident represents a tipping point. The regime in Tehran, incensed by Zahedi’s death, vowed strong retaliation against Israel. In Tehran’s collective memory, Israel’s history of attacks includes numerous strikes on Iranian nuclear sites, assassinations of scientists within Iran, and actions against Iranian proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.

Despite these provocations, Iran’s counter-strikes against Israel have been so far minimal or insignificant. Iran’s response to the US assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in 2020, for instance, was feeble.

Due to the pressure the extremist leadership in Tehran is facing, it evidently felt it could no longer ignore such insults. The regime is increasingly concerned about its own stability, grappling with a failing economy battered by decades of sanctions.

BOTH SIDES WOULD RATHER AVOID A WAR

Israeli officials were quick to promise a robust response to the attack. The government cannot tolerate another blatant infringement on Israel’s sovereignty, reminiscent of what Hamas tragically achieved in its October 7 attacks.

Israel has an array of retaliation options, including cyberattacks, long-range missile strikes on Iranian soil, aerial operations using jets and drones, and covert operations.

A strong action would be crucial to sending a powerful message to Iran and the broader region: “Don’t mess with us.” Despite Iranian officials’ desperate attempts to contain the situation, declaring the score with Israel is settled, Israel’s response is expected to be severe, as its Middle Eastern allies anticipate, and maybe even hope for.

Jonathan Este The writer is Associate Editor, International Affairs Editor

SOURCE: THE CONVERSATION

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