Tense situation between Iran and Israel: US officials talk again about an imminent Iranian airstrike

George Marinescu
English Section / 12 aprilie

Tense situation between Iran and Israel: US officials talk again about an imminent Iranian airstrike

Versiunea în limba română

Lufthansa has suspended flights to Tehran until Sunday The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation has warned its citizens not to travel to the Middle East these days Benjamin Netanyahu: "We have established a simple principle: whoever hits us, we hit him"

A massive Iranian-coordinated attack on Israel could happen at any time, several US officials have said in recent days, according to Bloomberg, Reuters and The Times of Israel. Proof that the attack on Israel is only a matter of time is the official visit made yesterday to the Holy Land by General Michael Kurilla, head of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), who discussed with Yoav Gallant, the Israeli Minister of Defense, and other officials about the threat an imminent Iranian attack.

Moreover, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during an official visit to a military airbase, said, according to The Times of Israel:

"We are in difficult times. We are in the midst of a war in Gaza that continues in full force. In addition, we are continuing efforts to free the hostages, but we are also preparing for challenges on other fronts. We have established a simple principle: whoever hits us, we hit him. We are ready to fulfill our responsibilities towards Israel's security, in defense and attack."

During this time, the Kremlin authorities were conveying a message from the Russian Federation, that the parties in conflict in the Middle East should refrain from any action that would lead to its escalation. However, beforehand, in the press release of the Russian Presidential Administration, it is stated that the attack by Israel, on April 1, on the Iranian consulate in Damascus represents a serious violation of the principles of international law.

According to Israel's Haaretz news agency, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock discussed the tense situation in the Middle East with her Iranian counterpart yesterday and urged all parties to act responsibly and show restraint. "No one can be interested in a wider regional escalation," Annalena Baerbock wrote on the official page on the social media platform X.

The situation became tense after US officials announced that a major Iranian attack on Israel was imminent in the coming days, especially as authorities in Tehran reiterated on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday a vow to take revenge for a alleged Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, which killed two generals and several officers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Citing people familiar with US and Israeli intelligence assessments, Bloomberg reported that Iran could launch several high-precision missiles and drones aimed at bombing military and government sites in Israel. One of the people quoted by Bloomberg said it was a matter of "when" - not "if" - Tehran would attack Israel.

USA, ready to support Israel in case of an Iranian attack

The announcement came just as US President Joe Biden reiterated US commitment to Israel's security in the face of threats from Iran. During a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio at the White House, Joe Biden told reporters that the two high-ranking officials also discussed the Iranian threat to Israel.

Joe Biden stated: "As I told Prime Minister Netanyahu, our commitment to Israel's security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is firm. We will do everything we can to protect Israel's security."

The US commitment was also reiterated by Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a call with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, where the US official said Washington would stand with Jerusalem against threats from Tehran.

Another US official told Al Jazeera that the US would help defend Israel if it was attacked by Iran or one of its Middle Eastern proxies. The official said that if the attack involved missiles and drones, US forces could help shoot them down, and that the US did not rule out launching a joint response with Israel against Iran or its allies if it attacked the Jewish state.

US Middle East envoy Brett McGurk has asked the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Iraq to send a message to Iran urging the authorities in Tehran to ease relations with Israel, according to The Jerusalem daily Post.

Amid tensions, Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency reported, citing Tehran's defense minister, that on Thursday, from mid night, Iran suspended all air traffic over the capital because of "military exercises". The news agency later removed the ad from the X social network and in a new post stated that it would not have published the original story.

We recall that on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei told the crowd in Tehran: "The consulate and embassy offices of any country are the territory of that country. When they attack the consulate, it's like they attack our territory. The evil regime in Israel made a mistake, it must be punished and it will be punished." Khamenei's remarks came a day after Israeli forces killed the three sons and four grandsons of Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh, all four of whom were minors, in a bombing.

In a response to Khamenei's statements, Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that Israel would respond to any attack by Iran, even on the territory of the aggressor country, according to Jerusalem media.

Lufthansa suspends flights to Tehran, Kremlin warns its own citizens

In light of the new information, the German airline Lufthansa announced yesterday that, after a careful assessment, it has decided to suspend flights to and from Tehran until April 13, inclusive, "due to the current situation in the Middle East".

"We are constantly monitoring the situation in the Middle East and are in close contact with the authorities. The safety of our passengers and crew members is Lufthansa's top priority," a company spokesman told Reuters.

Also yesterday, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned citizens of the Russian Federation not to travel to the Middle East during this period, especially to Israel, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

The Elaph News Agency reported that the Israeli Air Force has conducted several exercises in recent days that included preparing to attack Iranian nuclear facilities and other key infrastructure in the event that Iran launches a massive air strike on Israel.

US military sources cited by CNN say Iran is unlikely to attack Israel directly for fear of US and Israeli retaliation but will instead urge its various allies in the region to launch attacks on its behalf in the coming days.

An Iranian diplomatic source told the Lebanese publication Al-Akhbar, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, that Iran has told the US it will stop attacking Israel if there is a total cessation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip or if Israel does not continue its offensive promised against the city of Rafah.

Republican US Senator Marco Rubio, a member of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, described the current tensions between Israel and Iran as "the most dangerous moment in the Middle East since 1973", according to the Haaretz news agency.

"Iran wants to launch a large-scale attack from its own territory against Israel. Israel will instantly respond with an even more severe counterattack inside Iran," the Florida senator said.

Israel continues the offensive in Gaza

An analysis published by the daily newspaper The Jerusalem Post presents ten ways in which Iran could attack Israel. According to Seth J. Frantzman, the author of the analysis, Iran could send ballistic missiles from its own country or from neighboring Iraq, where it has moved several missiles and drones in recent years, to its southern region. Also, the attack launched by Iran could include long-range ballistic missiles like those sent in January 2024 to Pakistan and Syria. Another type of attack, would be a combined one, drones with cruise missiles, as Iran did five years ago in Saudi Arabia. In the attack prepared by Iran, Iraqi militias equipped with drones and missiles, terrorist groups in Syria financed by the Tehran regime, a coalition made up of Houthi rebels, Hezbollah militias and other terrorist groups could be used, the cited source also states. The analysis in The Jerusalem Post states that Iran could attack Israel's embassies in other countries of the world, which the authorities in Tehran have hinted that they are considering.

In any case, the situation tends to become more tense after several American officials said yesterday, quoted by the Wall Street Journal, that they fear that most of the hostages still in the hands of Hamas are no longer alive. According to initial data, of the 253 hostages taken on October 7, 2023 by Hamas terrorists, about 129 hostages should still be in Gaza, but Israeli forces claim that at least 34 of them are no longer alive. American officials quoted by the Wall Street Journal say that the number of dead would be much higher. They rely on what some Hamas sources said during recent negotiations that they do not hold the number of 40 hostages that Israel has requested in exchange for the release of several Hamas sympathizers. Under these conditions, the IDF launched a new offensive in the center of Gaza, but in parallel continued to hit Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon.

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