Israel strikes after Iranian attack

A woman searches for her belongings after her apartment was destroyed in an Israeli raid in Nuseirat. Picture: Reuters

A woman searches for her belongings after her apartment was destroyed in an Israeli raid in Nuseirat. Picture: Reuters

Published Apr 19, 2024


Israel launched more deadly strikes on besieged Gaza on Thursday as world powers watched nervously whether the country would retaliate against a weekend attack by its arch enemy Iran.

The Israeli army said it had bombed dozens of targets in the Palestinian coastal territory of 2.4 million people, more than six months into the bloodiest ever Gaza war.

Weeks of talks towards an Israel-Hamas truce and hostage release deal have stalled, according to Qatar’s prime minister who said the Gulf emirate was now “reassessing our role as mediator”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed to destroy Hamas over its October 7 attack on Israel, also stressed that Israel “reserves the right to protect itself” against Iran.

The Islamic republic last weekend carried out its first ever attack to directly target its regional foe but Israel, backed by its allies, intercepted most of the 300 missiles and drones and suffered no deaths.

Iran’s attack was retaliation for an April 1 air strike, which it blamed on Israel, on the consular annex of its embassy in Damascus.

The international community has urged de-escalation since Iran’s attack on Israel which came after months of tensions and violence involving Israel and Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

“We are on the edge of a war in the Middle East which will be sending shock-waves to the rest of the world,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said ahead of a G7 meeting in Capri, Italy.

Iran has warned of “a fierce and severe response” if Israel launches any further attacks after seven of its Revolutionary Guards died in the consular strike. However, Tehran had also sought to calm tensions through indirect diplomatic channels with its other major adversary, the US, which is Israel’s top ally and military supplier.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, in New York for a UN meeting, said Iran had “tried to tell the US clearly” that it is “not looking for the expansion of tension in the region”.

Washington said it won’t join any Israeli attack on Iran, but has pledged to instead impose new punitive sanctions against Iran. The EU said it would impose new sanctions on Iran’s drone and missile producers.

Netanyahu, after discussions with US President Joe Biden, decided not to proceed with pre-arranged plans for retaliatory strikes on Iran.

“Diplomatic sensitivities came into play,” a senior Israeli official said.

Among the range of possible responses considered by Israel were an attack on Iranian proxies in the region or a cyberattack, the sources said.

German airline Lufthansa extended its suspension of flights to and from Tehran and Beirut to the end of April and said its planes would continue avoiding Iranian airspace.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz welcomed a EU announcement of sanctions on Iran as “an important step” and wrote on X that “Iran must be stopped now before it is too late”.

Israeli artillery shelling and aircraft strikes again hit Gaza City overnight. The Israeli military said it struck dozens of militant targets over the past day.

Gaza’s civil defence on Thursday said it had recovered 11 more bodies in the southern city of Khan Yunis during the night. Israel had also bombed the far-southern city of Rafah.

Talks toward a ceasefire have stalled, said Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, despite months of effort also involving US and Egyptian officials.

Israel has faced growing global opposition to the Gaza war, which the UN and aid agencies say has left the north of the territory on the brink of famine.

Cape Times