Home News Israel plans bigger attack on Iran but scales back to avoid war

Israel plans bigger attack on Iran but scales back to avoid war

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Three senior Israeli officials said Israel had abandoned plans for a broader counterattack against Iran amid diplomatic pressure from the United States and other foreign allies and after Iranian attacks on Israeli territory had been thwarted.

Officials said Israeli leaders initially discussed bombing multiple military targets across Iran last week, including near the Iranian capital Tehran, in retaliation for an April 13 attack. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity discussing sensitive matters.

Such a widespread and damaging attack would be harder for Iran to ignore, raising the possibility of a forceful counterattack that could push the Middle East to the brink of a major regional conflict.

Ultimately, after President Joe Biden and the foreign ministers of Britain and Germany urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent a wider war, Israel opted for a more limited attack on Friday to avoid inflicting heavy damage and thus reduce the possibility of escalation. . At least that’s the case for now.

Still, in the view of Israeli officials, the attack demonstrated to Iran the breadth and sophistication of Israel’s military arsenal.

On Friday, Israel did not send fighter jets into Iranian airspace but fired a handful of missiles from aircraft hundreds of miles west of Iran, according to Israeli officials and two senior Western officials briefed on the attack. Israel also dispatched small attack drones, QuadcopterAccording to Israeli officials, this was an attempt to confuse Iranian air defense systems.

In recent years, Iran’s military facilities have been attacked by such drones many times, and Iran has repeatedly stated that it does not know the ownership of these drones – a statement that has been interpreted as Iran’s unwillingness to respond.

A missile hit an anti-aircraft battery at a strategic location in central Iran on Friday and another exploded in mid-air, officials said. An Israeli official said the Israeli air force deliberately destroyed the second missile after learning the first had hit its target to avoid causing too much damage. One Western official said the missile may have simply malfunctioned.

Officials say Israel aims to keep Iran moving forward without reciprocating, while saying it has developed the ability to strike Iran without entering Iranian airspace or even detonating its anti-aircraft batteries. Israel also wants to show it can hit batteries in Iran’s central region, which is home to several major nuclear facilities, including the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, and has suggested it could reach those facilities if it tried.

The Israeli military declined to comment.

The attack began on April 1, when Israel attacked the Iranian embassy building In Damascus, Syria, seven Iranian officials were killed, including three senior military leaders. They say Iran’s lack of retaliation after several similar attacks in the past has led Israeli officials to believe they can continue to carry out such attacks without provoking a major response from Iran.

This time it turned out to be different: Within a week, Iran began privately signaling to neighbors and foreign diplomats that its patience had reached its limits and that it would respond with a massive strike against Israel — its first Direct attacks on Israeli territory.

According to Israeli officials, during the week of April 8, Israel began preparations for two major military responses.

The first is a defensive operation coordinated with U.S. Central Command (whose top commander, Gen. Michael E. Kurila, visited Israel this week) and British, French and Jordanian forces to deter an expected Iranian attack.

The second is a massive offensive operation if an Iranian attack materializes. Israeli officials said that initially, Israeli intelligence believed Iran planned to carry out the attack using a “swarm” of large drones and as many as 10 ballistic missiles. As the week progressed, that estimate increased to 60 missiles, heightening Israel’s desire to strike back vigorously.

Israeli military and political leaders began discussing a possible counterattack once Iran began launching drones — even before it was known how much damage, if any, they had caused. According to one official, the plan was presented to the Air Force Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Hertz Halevi and Air Force Chief of Staff Tomer Barr early on Friday, April 12, two days before the Iranian attack. Israel’s war cabinet.

Officials said Israel’s intentions changed after the Iranian attack. The scale of the attack exceeded even expectations: more than 100 ballistic missiles, 170 drones and about 30 cruise missiles were used, making it one of the largest such attacks in military history.

But the IDF, in coordination with U.S., British, French and Jordanian pilots, shot down most of the missiles and drones with limited damage on the ground, reducing the need for a quick response. Some question whether Israel should risk shifting its focus away from defense while attacks are still ongoing, two officials said.

The turning point, however, was an early morning phone call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Biden, in which the U.S. president encouraged the Israeli leader to view a successful defense as a victory that did not require further response, according to three Israeli and Israeli sources. Western officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the discussions. Israelis said Mr Netanyahu opposed immediate retaliation in his appeal.

The next day, the Israeli government began signaling to foreign allies that it still planned to respond, but only in a limited way and far below its previous plans, a senior Western official said.

Rather than launch a broad counterattack lest Iranian leaders feel they have no choice but to respond in kind, Israeli officials said they have developed a plan that they hope will address Iranian officials without publicly humiliating them. They express their opinions.

Israeli officials said they initially planned to launch the attack on Monday night, but Hezbollah withdrew it at the last minute due to concerns that the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, which has been backed by Iran since October, could significantly increase its attacks on Israel. Intensity of attacks on northern Israel.

Foreign officials continued to encourage Israel, without success, not to respond and then expressed a willingness to accept an Israeli strike, giving Iran the option of moving forward without losing face, according to an Israeli and a Western official.

After Israel finally launched its attack in the early hours of Friday, that’s exactly what Iranian officials did – focusing on small drones rather than missiles and ignoring their impact.

Tehran officials have also largely avoided blaming Israel for the attack. This, coupled with Israel’s own decision not to claim responsibility, helps reduce the risk of escalation.

Eric Schmidt and Farnaz Fasihi Contributed reporting.

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