US says it will defend Israel but would not be part of Iran attack response: Live updates

Editor's Note: This page is a summary of news on the Israel-Hamas war and the Iran attack for Sunday, April 14. For the latest news, view our live updates file for Monday, April 15.

One day after Iran launched a historic missile and drone strike on Israel, the U.S. stressed Sunday that it is committed to defending its longtime ally − but it would not be a part of any responsive action that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government could take.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. is not seeking escalation and does not want a war with Iran.

A U.S. official who briefed reporters emphasized the U.S. was not involved in the initial Israeli strike that killed two Iranian commanders in Syria earlier this month and led to Iran's assault on Saturday. The official indicated President Joe Biden sought to take the temperature down in a call with Netanyahu on Sunday night.

Meanwhile, top Israeli officials who huddled Sunday back retaliation but are divided on the method and timing, Reuters reported. Netanyahu's five-member War Cabinet was expected to meet again to weigh a response to the attack, which has ratcheted up global concerns about a wider Mideast war.

War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz vowed Iran would pay. "We will build a regional coalition and exact the price from Iran in the fashion and timing that is right for us,” Gantz said.

Israel and Iran have long been engaged in a so-called shadow war, with Iran using its proxies − militant groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Yemen's Houthi rebels − to target Israel, which has undertaken targeted assassinations inside Iran.

But the attack marked the first time that Iran directly targeted Israel from its own territory. The assault underscores how the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, which began with the militants' attacks on Israeli border communities on Oct. 7, risks spilling over into a broader regional conflict.

Will it spark a wider war? Israel's long-simmering conflict with Iran moves out of the shadows.


∎ U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson told Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures" program that he would try to pass aid to Israel this week. The White House later confirmed that Biden convened a call Sunday afternoon with Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries to discuss the urgent need for the House to pass the national security supplemental as soon as possible.

∎ The Israeli military lifted restrictions early Monday, saying children can return to school. Nationwide restrictions were enacted as Israel went on "high alert" Saturday and prohibited school activities and restricted gatherings to 1,000 people, the Times of Israel reported.

∎ Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant on Sunday for the third time this weekend to review the combined operation by the United States, Israel, and their partners to defend Israel from attacks launched from Iranian territory and by Iran's proxies. Austin emphasized that while the United States does not seek escalation, it will continue to take all necessary action to defend Israel and U.S. personnel.

∎ Biden spoke Sunday with Jordan's King Abdullah II and strongly condemned the attack launched by Iran that also threatened Jordan. Both leaders noted that they are monitoring the situation and will remain in close touch over the coming days.

∎ The U.S. and Iran were in contact through Swiss intermediaries both before and after Iran's drone and missile attack, a senior Biden administration official told Reuters on Sunday. The official, who was not named, also said reports that Tehran gave regional countries 72 hours notice of the attacks were not true.

∎ Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps' intelligence unit warned Iranians Sunday against any pro-Israel social media posts after some people in Iran have voiced support for Israel after Iran's attack.

This handout picture released by the Israeli Army on April 14, 2024, shows an Israeli Air Force fighter aircraft at an undisclosed airfield after a mission to intercept incoming airborne threats.
This handout picture released by the Israeli Army on April 14, 2024, shows an Israeli Air Force fighter aircraft at an undisclosed airfield after a mission to intercept incoming airborne threats.

Iran defends attack on Israel

Iran's U.N. ambassador, Amir Saeid Iravani, said Sunday that the country's action was necessary and proportionate. He added that while Tehran does not seek an escalation or war in the region, it reaffirms its right to defend itself.

"If the U.S. initiates military operations against Iran, its citizens, or its security and interests, Iran will use its inherent right to respond proportionately," he said.

UN chief urges restraint after attack

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for maximum restraint Sunday after Iran’s attack on Israel and reminded members of the U.N. Security Council that acts of reprisal involving the use of force are barred under international law. He also condemned the attack and warned against further escalation.

Guterres told member states during a Security Council meeting that the U.N. charter prohibits the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.

"The Middle East is on the brink. The people of the region are confronting a real danger of a devastating full-scale conflict. Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate," Guterres said.

US-Israel alliance 'ironclad'

In the wake of Saturday's attack by Iran, Schumer called the United States' commitment to Israel's security "ironclad."

Hundreds of drones and missiles from Iran had been fired in Israel's direction, but Schumer, speaking during a Sunday news conference following a call with Biden and congressional leaders, noted Israel and a U.S.-led coalition were able to take down about 99% of the munitions.

Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for Israel's Defense Forces, said in a Sunday briefing that out of more than 120 ballistic missiles launched by Iran, a small number penetrated Israel's border. The rest were shot down. He said an Israeli air force base in southern Israel sustained some "minor damage to infrastructure."

US-led coalition played key role in stopping attack

Israel's response to the historic Iran strike was boosted by a U.S.-led coalition of warplanes and naval assets that helped intercept 300 drones, ballistic and cruise missiles, according to a U.S. official.

U.S. fighter aircraft and guided-missile destroyers knocked down some of the incoming missiles and drones, according to the official who was briefed on the operation but not authorized to speak publicly. Israel’s Arrow, David’s Sling and Iron Dome also took down most of the attack.

− Tom Vanden Brook

Recap: Iran launches dozens of drones, missiles at Israel

G7 nations vow to 'avoid further escalation'

A group of nations that includes some of the world's top economies said Sunday that they are fully committed to Israel's security.

Group of Seven nations said in a unanimous statement that Iran's attack on Israel risked "provoking an uncontrollable regional escalation."

Biden met Sunday with the group, the White House said.

"This must be avoided," G7 leaders said. "We will continue to work to stabilize the situation and avoid further escalation. In this spirit, we demand that Iran and its proxies cease their attacks, and we stand ready to take further measures now and in response to further destabilizing initiatives."

The group also said it planned to work closely together "to end the crisis in Gaza," and recommitted to working toward a permanent cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas, release of all militant-held hostages and the delivery of more humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.

Will Israel retaliate against Iran?

Iran's armed forces chief, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, told Iran's state TV on Sunday that if Israel retaliates, Iran's response would be "much larger" than the overnight drone and missile assault.

Bagheri also warned that if the U.S. backs an Israeli retaliation it would lead to the targeting of U.S. military bases.

In a separate statement, Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi said "any new Israeli adventure will be met with a heavier and regretful response."

Will US go to war with Iran?

Kirby said Sunday that the U.S. is not interested in a battle with Iran.

"The president's been very clear: We don't seek a war with Iran, we're not looking for escalation here, we will continue to help Israel defend itself," Kirby said on NBC’s "Meet the Press."

When asked about potential threats to U.S. troops in the region, Kirby said the Pentagon is staying vigilant. “We have not seen any attacks on U.S. troops or personnel in the region or our facilities and nothing to report to this morning. But we’re obviously going to watch that very, very closely."

Elizabeth Beyer

British leader says British jets shot down drones

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Sunday that British military jets also helped thwart Iran's attack. “I can confirm that our planes did shoot down a number of Iranian attack drones,” Sunak said.

He appealed for calm in the region to avoid an escalation of the conflict. “If this attack had been successful, the fallout for regional stability would be hard to overstate," Sunak said. "We stand by the security of Israel and the wider region, which is of course important for our security here at home, too. What we now need is for calm heads to prevail.”

Palestinians in Gaza see Iran attack as payback

Many Palestinians in Gaza, which has been under constant bombardment from Israel for months, applauded the Iranian attack.

“Whoever decides to attack Israel, dares to attack Israel at a time when the whole world acts in its service is a hero in the eyes of Palestinians regardless of whether we share their (Iran’s) ideology or not,” said Majed Abu Hamza, 52, a father of seven, in Gaza City. “We have been slaughtered for over six months and no one dared to do anything."

The Israeli military said Sunday that it will soon call up two reserve divisions for operations in Gaza.

More than 33,000 Palestinians have died amid a dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Israel has vowed to crush Hamas after the Oct. 7 border attacks by militants, who killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostage.

Lives lost in Gaza: Visualizing the death and destruction of Israel's war in Gaza

Congress could quickly agree on Israel aid, Rubio says

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., seemed to suggest Congress could quickly send aid to Israel, without sending anything to Ukraine.

“We could go on Monday to Washington, D.C., and we could pass aid to Israel, right away,” said Rubio, vice chair of the Senate select committee on intelligence.

Aid to both countries has stalled, as several House Republicans have opposed sending additional funding to Ukraine. A $95 billion aid package to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan sits currently stuck in the House after passing the Senate in February.

Rubio said he is confident, though, that if the Senate were to send the House an Israel-only aid bill, that the lower chamber would support it.

Savannah Kuchar

Iran's attack on Israel: How did we get here?

Israel never confirmed it was behind an April 1 attack on an Iranian consulate building in Damascus, Syria, that killed seven of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guard Corps officers, including two senior military commanders: Brig-Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi and Brig-Gen. Mohammad Hadi Haji-Rahimi.

However, Israel has carried out dozens if not hundreds of strikes on Iran-aligned groups in Syria and elsewhere in recent years. Since the start of Israel's war in Gaza in response to Hamas' Oct. 7 attacks, cross-border assaults on northern Israel by Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups in Lebanon and Syria have intensified.

Iran severed all diplomatic and commercial ties with Israel after its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Israel's airspace reopens after attack

Israel reopened its airspace Sunday after Iran's attack led to its closure and caused flight cancellations. Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan also said their respective airspaces had reopened to commercial traffic.

EL AL, Israel's flag carrier airline, said its operations had resumed, but many flights were delayed or canceled.

Major Iranian airports have cancelled all flights until Monday, the country's state media reported.

No anesthesia after 6 months of war: Pregnant women in Gaza Strip face starvation

Hamas says Iran had 'natural right' to attack Israel

Iran's ally Hamas, which has been fighting Israel in Gaza for more than six months, defended the drone and missile attack on Israel.

"We in Hamas regard the military operation conducted by the Islamic Republic of Iran a natural right and a deserved response on the crime of targeting the Iranian consulate in Damascus and the assassination of several leaders of the Revolutionary Guards," said Hamas in a statement seen by the Reuters news agency.

On Saturday, Hamas rejected a new cease-fire proposal from Israel, which is trying to secure the return of hostages seized by Hamas in its Oct. 7 attack.

U.S. Embassy lifts 'shelter in place' order

The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem lifted its "shelter in place" order for U.S. workers. In a statement, the diplomatic mission said that the "threat of drone and/or missile barrages has diminished."

The embassy did not lift more general travel restrictions in Israel for its employees and their families, reiterating that their personal travel is limited to within and between Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Be’er Sheva.

Iran attacked Israel. What happens now?

World leaders and officials from China to the U.K. expressed alarm in the wake of Iran's attack on Israel and called for both Israel and Iran to exercise restraint and to avoid further escalation.

"The EU strongly condemns the unacceptable Iranian attack against Israel," Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, said in a post on social platform X. “This is an unprecedented escalation and a grave threat to regional security."

Jordan's Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh said that any escalation would lead to "dangerous paths."

Jonathan Panikoff, director of the Atlantic Council think tank's Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative, wrote in a blog commentary that "Iran’s launch of ballistic missiles, in conjunction with over 100 drones, puts the region on the precipice of a broader war that almost no one seems to actually want; one that most actors − the United States, Arab states, even Hezbollah − have sought to avoid over the last six months."

Panikoff added that, "At best, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is almost certain to respond and take steps to attack Iranian targets, probably in Iran, in a manner that will be specific and contained and won’t lead to another significant Iranian response. At worst, the Israeli response will be intense and include the bombardment of important Iranian sites."

Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY; Reuters

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israel updates: US says it would not be part of Iran attack response