Israel on edge for Iranian retaliation after embassy strike

News Desk & Saleh Zaafir
Saturday, Apr 13, 2024

ISLAMABAD: The retaliatory attack by Iran on Israel after an attack on its diplomatic mission in Damascus two weeks ago appears to be imminent and Western media quoting CBS warned Iran could use more than 100 drones, dozens of cruise missiles and possibly ballistic missiles.

These would be aimed at military targets in Israel. The attack could be carried out any time this week and Iran’s allies in the region may also take part in the action, simultaneously. The US says it is on high alert for a significant Iranian retaliatory attack on Israel as fears grow of a wider regional war.

Countries including France, India, Russia Australia and the United Kingdom have warned their citizens against travel to Israel, the Palestinian territories and, in some cases, the wider region amid threats of an Iranian attack. India has warned its citizens against traveling to Iran as well. Israel, in its strike over the Syrian capital on April 1, had killed seven Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members, including two generals.

The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs on Friday advised its citizens against travel to Iran, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories. In a statement on the social media platform X, the ministry added that relatives of Iran-based diplomats would return to France and French civil servants are now banned from conducting any missions in the countries and territories in question.

German flagship airline Lufthansa extended its suspension of flights to and from Tehran until Thursday and will not use Iranian airspace during that time. The US has restricted its employees in Israel and their family members from personal travel outside Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beersheba areas.

An attack by Iran on Israel is a “real”, “credible” and “viable” threat, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists on Friday, adding that Washington would make sure Israelis “have what they need and that they’re able to defend themselves”.

The top US commander for the Middle East, General Erik Kurilla, is also in Israel for talks with its military officials on security threats. His trip was moved up from a previously scheduled date “due to recent developments”, Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder said on Thursday. After Kurilla discussed the tensions with Iran with Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Friday, Gallant said the US and Israel were “shoulder to shoulder” in facing possible threats. “We are prepared to defend ourselves on the ground and in the air, in close cooperation with our partners, and we will know how to respond,” the defence chief added.

The Wall Street Journal, quoting a person familiar with the matter, reported on Thursday that Israel was preparing for an attack by Iran as soon as Friday or Saturday. Al Jazeera’s Hamdah Salhut, reporting from East Jerusalem, said the Israeli army announced that it was preparing on all fronts offensively and defensively. The US officials told CBS News, the BBC’s US partner, that a “challenging” major attack on Israel could happen imminently.

Israel has said it is ready “defensively and offensively”. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to meet members of his war cabinet, including Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and opposition figure Benny Gantz. The official added that there was still a possibility Iran could decide to hold back. “I can’t speak to the size, scale, scope of what that attack might look like,” US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Friday, adding that the Iranian threat was “credible” and that Washington was “watching it as closely as we can”.

President Joe Biden has already promised Israel his country’s “ironclad” support in the event of an Iranian attack. Officials in several countries have been trying to dissuade Iran from launching an attack on Israel, fearing it could spark a wider regional war. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken to the foreign ministers of China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to attempt to convince them to use their influence with Iran.

Netanyahu said his government was prepared “to meet all of the security needs of the State of Israel”. “We’re watching this very, very closely,” said John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, who declined to provide information about the expected timing of the threat.

The Defence Department is moving additional assets to the Middle East region “to bolster regional deterrence efforts and increase force protection for US forces,” a US defence official told CNN, as Israel and the US brace for a potential Iranian attack. The Pentagon has been working specifically to bolster air defences for the US troops stationed in Iraq and Syria, who came under attack by Iran-backed proxy forces over 100 times between October and February. In January, three US service members were killed when a drone got through US air defences at the Tower 22 base in Jordan.

The US is not anticipating that Iran or its proxies will attack US forces as part of its retaliation, but is moving the assets just in case. “It would be imprudent if we didn’t take a look at our own posture in the region to make sure that we’re properly prepared,” Kirby said. A direct strike on Israel by Iran is one of the worst-case scenarios the Biden administration is bracing for, as it would guarantee rapid escalation of an already tumultuous situation in the Middle East. Such a strike could lead to the Israel-Hamas war broadening into a wider, regional conflict – something Biden has long sought to avoid.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with the foreign ministers of Turkey, China and Saudi Arabia to urge them to press Iran not to escalate the conflict in the Middle East after threats made by Iran against Israel, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Thursday. Miller said the US has also “engaged with European allies and partners over the past few days” to deliver a similar message on Iran.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron have both spoken to the Iranian foreign minister in recent days.

The Crude oil futures rose more than 1% Friday on reports that Israel is preparing for a direct attack by Iran this weekend, in what would be the biggest escalation of Middle East tensions since the start of the Israel-Hamas war last October.

West Texas Intermediate futures rose to $86 a barrel on multiple media reports that Israel is preparing for an imminent attack by Iran. The West Texas Intermediate contract for May delivery hit a session high of $87.67, while June Brent futures rallied to $92.18.

Exxon Mobil stock hit an all-time intraday high of $123.74 as the oil rally lifted the energy sector. Brent crude oil futures could spike to $100 a barrel if Iran directly attacks Israel, according to Bob McNally, president of Rapidan Energy.

Observers are of the view that in case the oil price raises, the economies of several countries including Pakistan would suffer further badly. It could disrupt the economic schemes of such countries, budgets and efforts to rid inflation and overcoming fiscal complexities would become impossible.