Iran Initiates Drone Air Strike on Israel, Imminent Threat Looms

Iran initiates an aerial assault on Israel using drones that are mere hours from reaching their target. Both the US and Israel acknowledge the ongoing air strike on Israeli soil, while Jordan and Iraq respond by shutting down their airspace.

Since its April 1st strike on Damascus, Israel has maintained a state of heightened vigilance, despite not issuing any comments regarding that specific assault. In response, Iran vowed to seek retribution, leading to widespread anticipation of a retaliatory strike. On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that Israel was bracing itself for a direct confrontation with Iran, indicating the nation's readiness to respond to any acts of aggression.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has signaled Israel's proactive measures in closely monitoring the looming threat of an orchestrated attack by Iran and its affiliates in the region. This vigilance aligns with a stern warning from United States President Joe Biden to Iran, advising against any aggressive actions towards Israel, a situation he described as imminent. The White House has reiterated President Biden's unwavering support for Israel amid these looming threats.

An Iranian drone [File: Iranian Army office via AFP]

Adrienne Watson, speaking on behalf of the US National Security Council, disclosed that President Biden is receiving regular updates from his national security advisors. He is also engaged in continuous discussions with Israeli leaders, ensuring coordination with allies and partners worldwide.
In a strategic response, Syrian military officials have activated their Russian-provided Pantsir ground-to-air defense systems, fortifying Damascus and other critical military installations in anticipation of possible counterattacks from Israel.

In a unified move reflecting the heightened state of alert, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Israel have temporarily shut their airspace, adopting a cautious stance in response to the escalating regional tensions.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of Iran has confirmed the deployment of numerous drones and missiles targeting Israel. This confirmation came following Israel's announcement that Tehran had initiated assaults. On Saturday, the IRGC declared that these aerial and missile attacks were conducted under the operation named "True Promise." They described this act as a retaliatory measure to penalize Israel for its alleged offenses.

Israel has indicated that it would take several hours for the drones to enter its airspace. This development follows approximately two weeks after Israel's assault on the Iranian consulate in Syria, which resulted in the death of seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

In retaliation, the IRGC announced, "In response to the Zionist regime's aggressive act against the Iranian consulate in Syria, we have initiated an operation employing drones and missiles." They further elaborated that the operation involved a significant number of missiles and drones aimed at specific sites within the territories under occupation.

Israel's military spokesperson, Daniel Hagari, addressed the nation on television, stating, "Iran has dispatched UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] from its own territory towards Israel. This marks a serious and perilous escalation. We have ensured that our defensive and offensive mechanisms are fully prepared to counter this extensive assault from Iran."

An ambulance is parked outside the Iranian embassy in Damascus after an Israeli strike on April 1, 2024 [File: Firas Makdesi/Reuters]

Israeli Attack on Iranian Consulate in Syria Results in 7 Deaths

Israeli Attack on Iranian Consulate in Syria Results in 7 Deaths, 2 of Which Are IRGC Generals

IRGC Reports Deaths of Commander Mohammad Reza Zahedi, Deputy Mohammad Hadi Hajriahimi, and Five Others.

In the wake of an Israeli airstrike that demolished the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Iran has vowed to retaliate. The attack resulted in the deaths of seven individuals, including two high-ranking officers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). Among the casualties were Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a distinguished commander of the IRGC's elite Quds Force, and his deputy, General Mohammad Hadi Hajriahimi. The IRGC confirmed these losses in a statement released on Monday, highlighting the significant impact of the strike.

Iran's Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, condemned the strike as a breach of international norms and squarely blamed Israel for the incident. Echoing this sentiment, Nasser Kanani, the spokesperson for Iran's Foreign Ministry, asserted Iran's prerogative to retaliate, stating that the nation will determine the nature and extent of its response to the aggressor's actions.
Syria's Foreign Minister, Faisal Mekdad, also criticized the assault, labeling it a "terrorist attack." He expressed strong disapproval of the violent act against the Iranian consulate in Damascus, which resulted in the loss of innocent lives, as reported by the Syrian state news agency SANA.
Furthermore, Russia has voiced its objection to the attack, deeming it "unacceptable" and implicating Israel in the aggressive act. 

Late on Saturday, Iran initiated its first direct assault on Israeli soil by deploying explosive drones and launching missiles, marking a retaliatory action that heightened the possibility of an expanded regional conflict. The United States has expressed unwavering support for Israel in the face of these developments. In Israel, sirens sounded as journalists from Reuters reported hearing the distant sounds of heavy explosions, which local reports attributed to the aerial interception of the explosive drones. It was reported that a 7-year-old girl suffered critical injuries due to the incident.

Iran retaliates against Israel with a massive strike involving hundreds of drones and missiles
An anti-missile system operates after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel April 14, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

In a significant escalation of tensions, Iran executed its first direct assault on Israeli territory late Saturday, deploying explosive drones and missiles in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike that devastated the Iranian consulate in Damascus. This move has sparked concerns of a potential expansion into a broader regional conflict, with the United States affirming its "ironclad" support for Israel.

Iranians celebrate on a street, after the IRGC attack on Israel, in Tehran, Iran, April 14, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

Following the attack, U.S. President Joe Biden engaged in discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and announced plans to convene a G7 leaders' meeting to formulate a diplomatic response to Iran's aggressive actions. Amidst the backdrop of a six-month-long conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and the looming threat of a larger war, Biden has expressed opposition to any Israeli counterattack against Iran.

The United Nations Security Council scheduled a meeting at Israel's behest to address Iran's attack and consider labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity. In response to the Iranian missile barrage, Israel's military spokesperson confirmed the interception of most missiles outside Israeli borders, including over ten cruise missiles, with only minor damage reported to an Israeli military facility.

Iranians celebrate on a street, after the IRGC attack on Israel, in Tehran, Iran, April 14, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

The attack follows Iran's vow of retribution for the April 1 Israeli strike on its Damascus consulate, which resulted in the deaths of seven IRGC officers. Iran labeled its recent strike as punishment for "Israeli crimes," warning of a more severe response to any further Israeli actions. The U.S. has reiterated its commitment to defending Israel, with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stating America's readiness to protect its forces and support Israel. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other international actors have condemned Iran's attack, highlighting the risk of a devastating escalation in the region.

Objects are seen in the sky above Jerusalem after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, in Jerusalem April 14, 2024. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

The conflict has already affected regional dynamics, with Israel and Lebanon closing their airspace and Jordan preparing its air defenses. The European Union and several countries have condemned Iran's actions, while political figures in the U.S. have weighed in on the situation. The ongoing hostilities between Israel and Iran, traditionally fought through proxies or in third countries, now threaten to evolve into a direct confrontation involving Iran, its regional allies, Israel, and the United States.

Iran Engages in Psychological Warfare with Israel as Attack Looms

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to Foreign Minister Israel Katz during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem October 27, 2019./

Analysts predict that Iran will eventually respond to last week's attack on its embassy in Damascus, maintaining a period of suspense for Israelis in the meantime. Despite not claiming responsibility for the assault that resulted in the deaths of seven elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz faced accusations from Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during an Eid al-Fitr sermon, promising retribution.

Silence from Iranian officials and media on Friday did little to quell speculation about an imminent retaliation, especially after Khamenei's social media account echoed his previous vows of retaliation. U.S. intelligence, as reported by CBS News, anticipated a significant Iranian offensive against Israel, potentially involving over 100 drones and numerous missiles targeting military sites, a sentiment echoed by White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby.

The attack on what Iran considers its sovereign territory in Damascus has left the Islamic Republic with seemingly no choice but to retaliate, maintaining an element of unpredictability in its approach, according to an anonymous Iranian analyst. This strategy of psychological warfare has reportedly heightened anxiety among Israelis, with reports of families staying close to their safe rooms instead of preparing for Sabbath gatherings.

Amid local concerns and the fear of an escalating conflict potentially leading to an Israeli strike on Iran, Iranians worry about the economic repercussions, particularly the devaluation of their currency and soaring inflation.

While Tehran has signaled to Washington its desire to de-escalate tensions, it seeks international condemnation of the Israeli attack, according to Reuters. The Islamic Republic might be using the situation to negotiate concessions before deciding on its course of action.

Iran's military readiness was highlighted by the inspection of air defense capabilities in northern Iran by Brigadier General Amir-Mohammad Sadeghian, as reported by the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA). Despite a reluctance for a full-scale military confrontation with Israel or the U.S., Iran feels compelled to act, according to Raz Zimmt, a senior researcher at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies.

Amid escalating tensions with Israel

Former Iranian Minister and seasoned intelligence official Ali Rabiei has voiced criticism over Iran's domestic policy shortcomings and internal challenges. In a candid piece for the Etemad daily, Rabiei outlined the myriad crises facing Iran, cautioning against the folly of engaging in direct conflict with Israel under current conditions.

Rabiei underscored the imperative of wise leadership and adept crisis management to avert systemic collapse. He highlighted critical issues such as rampant inflation, eroding social cohesion, and widespread psychological unrest among the populace. Advocating for a more conciliatory approach, Rabiei called for policies aimed at mollifying tensions and fostering societal unity and compassion.
The backdrop to Rabiei's critique is a series of nationwide protests against Iran's clerical-military establishment, marked by significant violence and mass incarcerations, particularly during the upheavals of November 2019 and the subsequent years. The recent parliamentary elections saw a marked voter apathy, further questioning the regime's legitimacy.

While Rabiei refrained from directly addressing the contentious compulsory hijab policy, his commentary could be seen as a veiled critique of the enforcement campaign that has sparked considerable unrest, especially among women challenging the clerical authority.
The arrest of the wife and daughter of Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, a renowned figure in Iranian sports, for defying the hijab mandate, underscores the deep societal rifts over the issue. The government's stringent domestic policies and its adversarial stance towards Israel, coupled with a controversial nuclear agenda, have not only isolated Iran internationally but have also strained its oil-reliant economy.

Recent days have seen a ramp-up in anti-Israel rhetoric from Iranian officials, pledging retaliation for the killing of seven IRGC members in Damascus. Additionally, the seizure of a Portuguese-flagged vessel by IRGC naval forces, purportedly linked to an Israeli businessman, has done little to bolster confidence in Iran's market, as evidenced by the plummeting value of the rial against the US dollar.
Criticism of President Ebrahim Raisi is mounting, with calls for a cabinet reshuffle to better address public grievances, particularly in light of economic hardships that have pushed nearly a third of Iranians below the poverty line, exacerbated by years of inflation.

The German Foreign Office has issued a recommendation for its nationals to exit Iran amidst growing tensions and the looming threat of conflict with Israel. 

This advisory highlights the increased risks associated with travel by air, land, and sea in the region, with a particular emphasis on the heightened vulnerability of individuals holding dual German-Iranian citizenship, who may face unexpected detention or interrogation.
The Foreign Office emphasized, “Given the current tensions, particularly between Israel and Iran, the possibility of a sudden escalation exists,” in its updated travel warning.

This announcement coincides with the decision by German airline Lufthansa to extend its suspension of flights to and from Tehran indefinitely, citing the volatile situation. A Lufthansa spokesperson stated, "Due to the prevailing circumstances, Lufthansa will continue to suspend its flights to and from Tehran until Thursday, April 18."
This precautionary step is in response to U.S. intelligence warnings about an imminent risk of Iranian assaults on Israeli territory within the next day or two. President Joe Biden had also previously indicated that Iran might initiate actions against Israel in the near future.

In light of the escalating tensions in the Middle East, Germany, along with other countries such as Britain, Canada, Russia, and Australia, has cautioned its citizens against traveling to Iran, Israel, the West Bank, and Lebanon.

Taliban reported that Iran had deported over 20,000 Afghan children, many of whom were sent back unaccompanied, without any guardians to receive them upon their return. 

An Afghan family waiting to cross main Afghanistan-Pakistan land border crossing, in Torkham, Pakistan September 15, 2023 / iranintl

Mohammad Haroon Wahedi, the head of migrant affairs in Afghanistan's Nimroz Province, which borders Iran, disclosed to TOLOnews that daily, approximately 30 to 40 children without guardians are deported from Iran. "Last year, we registered 20,000 expelled children," he stated.

Among those deported was Atiqullah, a 12-year-old Afghan boy who shared his experience with TOLOnews, revealing he was expelled by Iranian authorities without his family. "I went to Iran out of necessity to work. I was employed at a bakery, taking home four to six loaves of bread daily," he recounted.
Another child, Mohammad, shared a similar story, "I was caught on my way to Iran and sent back to Afghanistan. Now, I'm penniless and unsure of what to do next."
Alauddin Amiri, the head of labor at the Directorate of Labor and Social Affairs in Nimroz, reported that only 3,000 of the deported children have been reunited with their families across various Afghan provinces.

Zubair, a young deportee, expressed his distress, "We moved to Iran because of economic hardships... but I was arrested by the Iranian government. I hope the United Nations can offer us assistance."
Momen, echoing Zubair's plea, expressed his desire to return to his family and called for financial support from both the government and international organizations.
Amiri noted, "Over the past year, we managed to reunite nearly 3,000 unaccompanied children deported from Iran with their families in different provinces."

The Iranian government's recent measures corroborate these claims. Facing an economic crisis and growing public unrest over the influx of Afghan migrants, both documented and undocumented, the Iranian Interior Ministry announced a directive to halt new Afghan arrivals and deport illegal migrants.
Additionally, the Tasnim News Agency, affiliated with the IRGC, reported the launch of a police operation to detain and deport unauthorized immigrants from recreational areas in Tehran Province.
Afghan journalist Zahra Azizi, residing in Tehran, painted a bleak picture of the situation for Afghan migrants, telling Radio Azadi about the discrimination they face, including being denied basic necessities like bread, increased medical charges due to lack of insurance, and destruction of their census papers by police.

Afghanistan's history of migration, spurred by conflicts such as the civil war, has led many to seek refuge in neighboring countries like Iran and Pakistan. However, upon arrival, migrants often confront significant obstacles in terms of residency, education, and employment.
The recent surge in reports of detentions and expulsions from Iran, primarily affecting Afghan citizens, highlights the growing issue of migrant treatment. The presence of Afghan migrants in Iran continues to spark debate, with opinions divided on whether they represent a threat or an opportunity for the country.
With estimates of the Afghan diaspora in Iran being difficult to ascertain due to many Afghans' reluctance to engage in official counts, the true scale of the issue remains challenging to gauge.

Iran launches air attack on Israel, with drones ‘hours’ away

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