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Iran launches missile and drone attack against Israel

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has confirmed that a drone and missile attack was under way against Israel, an attack that may trigger a major escalation between the regional archenemies, with the US pledging to back Israel.

Israel’s military said the drones, which Iraqi security sources said were seen flying over the country from Iran, would take hours to reach their targets.

Some of the drones have been shot down by the US military, US officials have said, without disclosing how many drones were shot down or the precise locations.

Israeli Channel 12 said missiles Iran had launched would likely strike sooner but that some missiles and drones had been shot down over Syria or Jordan.

Iran vowed retaliation for what it called an Israeli strike on its Damascus consulate on 1 April that killed seven Guards officers including two senior commanders and said its strike, called “Operation True Promise” was a punishment for “Israeli crimes”.

The aftermath of the alleged Irsaeli strike on an Iranian consulate in Syria which prompted the attack

“In response to the numerous crimes committed by the Zionist regime, including the attack on the consular section… the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fired dozens of missiles and drones at specific targets inside the occupied territories (Israel),” Iranian state television quoted a Guards statement as saying.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the consulate attack.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also convened the Israeli war cabinet at military headquarters in Tel Aviv, his office said.

US President Joe Biden, who yesterday warned Iran against attacking Israel after saying such a scenario appeared imminent, has pledged to stand with Israel against Iran, the White House said.

A retired Israeli general, Amos Yadlin, told the country’s Channel 12 news that the Iranian drones were equipped with 20kg of explosives each.

Israel’s military said sirens would sound in any threatened areas and that its defences were poised to deal with them.

They said it sounded sirens in a kibbutz near the Lebanon border, after Iran launched an attack on Israel.

“Sirens sounded in Kibbutz Snir, northern Israel,” the army said in a statement.

Israel and neighbouring Jordan, which lies between Iraq and Israel, said they were closing their airspace and Jordan announced a state of emergency.

Syria, an ally of Iran, said it was putting its ground-to-air defence systems around the capital and major bases on high alert, army sources there said.

The Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, now in its seventh month, has driven up tensions in the region, spreading to fronts with Lebanon and Syria and drawing long-range fire at Israeli targets from as far away as Yemen and Iraq.

Joe Biden returning to the White House after cutting short a trip to Delaware today

The White House has said the attack is likely to unfold over a number of hours.

Mr Biden is being regularly updated by his national security team and is in constant communication with Israeli officials as well as US partners and allies, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

“President Biden has been clear: our support for Israel’s security is ironclad,” Ms Watson added.

“The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defence against these threats from Iran.”

Those clashes now threaten to morph into a direct open conflict pitting Iran and its regional allies against Israel and its main supporter the US.

Israeli chief military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari

Earlier, Israel announced it was closing schools nationwide over security concerns.

There will be “no educational activities” when the school week begins tomorrow “in light of the security situation,” military spokesman Daniel Hagari said.

The measure is set to last two days, according to online army guidelines.

Video footage of the incident corresponds to known details of the boarding

It follows Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reporting that a Guards helicopter had boarded and taken into Iranian waters the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries earlier today.

MSC, which operates the Aries, confirmed that Iran had seized the ship and said it was working “with the relevant authorities” for its safe return and the wellbeing of its 25 crew.

MSC leases the Aries from Gortal Shipping, an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime, Zodiac said in a statement, adding that MSC is responsible for all the vessel’s activities. Zodiac is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused Iran of piracy.

Egypt calls for exercise of the ‘utmost restraint’ – statement

The Egyptian foreign ministry, in a statement, called for the exercise of the “utmost restraint” to spare the region and its people from further factors of instability and tension.

Egypt’s air defences were also on “maximum alert”, Al-Qahera News a TV channel close to the country’s intelligence services, reported.

“A crisis cell … is closely monitoring the situation and submitting reports to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hour by hour,” the channel said, citing a senior security official.

France’s Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne condemned Iran’s drone strikes on Israel as a “new level” in the threat to security.

“France condemns with the greatest firmness the attack launched by Iran against Israel,” he said on the platform X.

“In deciding to take this unprecedented action, Iran has reached a new level of destabilisation and is risking a military escalation,” he added, reiterating France’s commitment to Israel’s security.

Meanwhile, Kuwait Airways said it decided to divert all incoming and outgoing flights away from “areas of tension” in view of the security situation in the region and concern for the safety of its passengers.

Israel’s El Al Airlines also cancelled 15 flights scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, the carrier said as Israel closed its airspace as a precaution after Iran launched its attack.

Foreign destinations affected include Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Milan, Bucharest, Sofia, Athens, Dubai and Moscow, the El Al statement said.

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