World on Edge as Israel’s War Cabinet Plots Retaliation

Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images
Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

Israel’s war cabinet was due to meet Sunday to decide how to respond to Iran’s huge, failed drone and missile attack. Observers across the world fear this could be the tipping point where the current conflict could explode into a full-blown regional war.

The Israeli military says it intercepted the “vast majority” of drones and missiles launched by Iran in a direct attack on Israel late Saturday. Israel used the Iron Dome and Arrow 3 defensive weapons systems to counter the attack. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that missiles and drones from Syria, Yemen, and Iran had also been neutralized, according to The New York Times. The British and Jordanian militaries also shot down drones and missiles during the attack. (Jordan’s government said its actions were done in self-defense and to protect its airspace and its citizens below.)

Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari told CNN the assault included “200 different kinds” of drones, as well as ballistic and cruise missiles. A child from a Bedouin town in the southern Negev region was the only reported serious casualty of the attack so far; she was reportedly hurt by flying shrapnel from an interceptor missile. On Sunday, her condition remained life-threatening, the Times of Israel reported. The girl’s father told the paper, “It fell on us into the house at around 2 in the morning. She was sleeping in the house and we immediately took her to [the] hospital.”

At least eight other people with minor injuries from shrapnel were treated at that same hospital, the Times reported.

U.S. forces helped to shoot down the drones, underlining what the White House called an “ironclad commitment” to Israel’s security. In a late-night statement Saturday, President Joe Biden condemned the attack, saying: “At my direction, to support the defense of Israel, the U.S. military moved aircraft and ballistic missile defense destroyers to the region over the course of the past week. Thanks to these deployments and the extraordinary skill of our service members, we helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles.”

It was reported by Axios, however, that Biden told Netanyahu in a call on Saturday that the U.S. would not support, nor would it take part in, retaliatory strikes against Iran.

“You got a win. Take the win,” Biden reportedly said.

Israel’s war cabinet was granted the power on Saturday night to decide how the nation should respond to the unprecedented Iranian attack. The three members of the cabinet—Netanyahu, security hawk Benny Gantz and defense minister Yoav Gallant—will decide whether to heed U.S. calls for de-escalation or strike back forcefully against Iran.

Some Israeli politicians are advocating for a tough response by Israel—the country’s national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, called for a “crushing attack,” according to The New York Times—while others urged “strategic patience.”

While world leaders called for restraint, Israel’s Channel 12 TV quoted an unnamed official who said there would be a “significant response” to the strikes.

The United Nations Security Council is due to meet Sunday at 4 p.m., after Israel requested an emergency meeting.

Iran, meanwhile, issued stark warnings against the U.S., with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps promising a “reciprocal” response to any actions taken by Washington that Tehran deems a threat.

Shortly before the first reports of interceptions came in Jerusalem, Iran’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations posted a confused message appearing to downplay the significance of its attack while simultaneously justifying its launch of hundreds of missiles and drones. It called the attack a response to “aggression against our diplomatic premises in Damascus” in a statement on X but also said “the matter can be deemed concluded.”

Picture show the Secret Service driving U.S. President Joe Biden returning to DC from Delaware.

U.S. President Joe Biden (L) cuts short a weekend trip to Delaware on Saturday to return to Washington for urgent consultations on the Middle East, amid heightened tension between Iran and Israel.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The statement continued: “However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe. It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, from which the U.S. MUST STAY AWAY!”

The barrage of drones and missiles had a ripple effect throughout the region, with Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq temporarily shutting down their airspace.

Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani was quoted in local media issuing a dire warning to Israel’s allies, saying, “Any country that opens its airspace or ground to Israel for attacking Iran will receive Iran’s decisive response.”

Hours before reports of the drone attack surfaced, Biden hurried back to Washington, D.C. from Delaware to “consult with his national security team about events in the Middle East,” the White House announced.

Tehran had promised for days that it would seek to punish Israel for an attack against an Iranian diplomatic mission in Damascus that killed a top Iranian commander and other Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) officials earlier this month. Experts warn that Iran’s attack could push the region closer to a full-blown military conflict on multiple fronts, igniting another all-out war in the Middle East.

Biden’s ‘Very Dangerous’ Race to Avert All-Out War With Iran

Although Israel has not claimed responsibility for the Syria assassination, the Israeli military had been preparing for the Iranian counterstrike. Last week, the IDF canceled leave for soldiers in the combat unit and boosted air defenses.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect differing accounts over the age of the child injured in the attack.

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