Israel to prepare amid warnings of possible Iranian attack in 24 to 48 hours

Editor's Note: This page is a summary of news on the Israel-Hamas war for Friday, April 12. For the latest news on the conflict in the Middle East, view our story for Saturday, April 13.

Israel said it would prepare for a possible Iranian strike that U.S. officials warned could come in 24 to 48 hours as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the war in Gaza "in full force."

"We have determined a simple rule: Whoever harms us, we will harm them," Netanyahu said during a visit on Thursday to the Tel Nof Air Base. "We are prepared to meet all of the security needs of the State of Israel, both defensively and offensively."

Two senior officials told USA TODAY on Friday that the U.S. will move more troops to the Middle East ahead of any possible attack, which could target Israeli or U.S. interests in the region.

Tehran has vowed to retaliate against Israel for an April 1 attack on the Iranian consulate in the Syrian capital of Damascus that killed seven military commanders, including Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander in the elite Quds Force.

While Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its role in the Damascus attack, the U.S. has strongly denied any involvement. "We communicated to Iran that the U.S. had no involvement in the strike that happened in Damascus and we have warned Iran not to use this attack as a pretext to escalate further in the region or to attack U.S. facilities or personnel," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Thursday.

Asked about the timing of the expected attack on Friday, President Biden said he did not want to give out classified information, "but my expectation is sooner than later." His message to Iran: “Don’t.”

In a call with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said "a direct Iranian attack will require an appropriate Israeli response against Iran." Austin said the U.S. would give its full "support to defend Israel against Iranian attacks," his office said in a press release.

U.S. intelligence pointing to a coming attack prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to make calls to his counterparts in China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, asking other countries to "urge Iran not to escalate,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said on Thursday.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke with Blinken on Thursday night about the attack on Iran, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning confirmed. "China strongly condemns the attack on the Iranian embassy in Syria and expressed that security of diplomatic institutions should not be violated," Mao said.

Gen. Erik Kurilla, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, traveled to Israel on Thursday to discuss plans for the anticipated attack.

Kurilla wrapped up a "situational assessment" with Israel's Chief of the General Staff on Friday, Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in a press briefing. The IDF approved plans for a "variety of scenarios" in response to warnings of the attack, Hagari said.

"Iran's conduct throughout the war escalates the situation in the Middle East and undermines stability and security," Hagari said. "We will know how to act wherever required."

More: Israel and United Arab Emirates have maintained diplomatic ties amid Gaza war | Fact check

Multiple countries issue warnings to personnel in Israel

The increased tensions prompted several countries to issue warnings to its citizens and personnel stationed in Israel to take security precautions ahead of the expected attack.

The U.S. State Department issued a security alert to U.S. embassy personnel on Thursday to stay within the greater Tel Aviv area. Although the alert did not name Iran, it warned that "the security environment remains complex and can change quickly depending on the political situation and recent events."

The French Foreign Ministry warned French citizens in a statement on Friday to "refrain absolutely" from travel in the coming days to Iran, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories. French officials were also banned from missions to those countries.

40 rockets launched towards northern Israel from Lebanon

As Israel braced for a possible Iranian attack, the IDF reported around 40 rockets were launched at targets in northern Israel from Lebanese territory on Friday. Israeli forces intercepted two drones earlier the same day, it said.

"Most of the projectiles were intercepted by the soldiers of the Air Defense Array," Hagari said on Friday. "Some fell in open areas, and there were no casualties in this incident."

Hezbollah claimed the attack, according to the Times of Israel.

Two Palestinians killed in West Bank as IDF searches for missing boy

Conflict erupted in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Friday after the Israeli military said it was working with local police to locate a 14-year-old boy who went missing near the outpost of Malachei Shalom that morning, the Times of Israel reported.

Israeli Defense Forces Spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a post on X that troops had blocked roads and were scanning the area "from the air and on the ground" in searches of the boy.

Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians in the area, including one member of Hamas' armed forces, near the city of Tubas, west of the Jordan Valley, according to the military.

Hamas confirmed that Mohammad Omar Daraghmeh, a member of its armed Al Qassem Brigades, was killed in the fighting.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said another three Palestinians were injured in the West Bank, including one who sustained serious injuries, the Associated Press reported.

The Gaza Health Ministry reported that the death toll in Gaza Strip has reached 33,634 since Oct. 7, when an attack by Hamas sparked an Israeli siege that devastated the enclave with airstrikes and a ground invasion.

Faced with increasing pressure to provide access to humanitarian aid in Gaza following the death of seven workers with the aid group World Central Kitchen, Israel has said it will open a new land crossing to allow for humanitarian aid to enter the besieged territory. The U.N. has warned that half of Gaza's population now faces "catastrophic" hunger.

The IDF said on Sunday it had withdrawn all but one of its brigades stationed in Gaza, which remains to prevent Palestinians from returning to northern Gaza and carry out "precision strikes."

Netanyahu continues to threaten an assault on the southern city of Rafah, where many Palestinians have gathered after fleeing Israeli strikes in other areas of the war-ravaged enclave.

The White House said President Biden pressed Netanyahu to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza and emphasized that an "immediate ceasefire is essential" in a call last week.

Cybele Mayes-Osterman is a breaking news reporter for USA Today. Reach her on email at Follow her on X @CybeleMO.

Contributing: Reuters

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israel prepares for possible Iranian attack after warnings