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May 22, 2024 1:03 PM
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Booms and sirens in Israel after Iran launches over 200 missiles and drones in unprecedented attack – Associated Press

Photo: Israeli Iron Dome air defense system launches to intercept missiles fired from Iran, in central Israel, Sunday, April 14, 2024

Booms and air raid sirens sounded across Israel early Sunday after Iran launched hundreds of drones, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles in an unprecedented revenge mission that pushed the Middle East closer to a regionwide war.

The attack marked the first time Iran has launched a direct military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Condemnation from the United Nations chief and others was swift, with France saying Iran “is risking a potential military escalation,” Britain calling the attack “reckless” and Germany saying Iran and its proxies “must stop it immediately.”

The Israeli military’s spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said Iran fired scores of drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles — with the vast majority intercepted outside Israel’s borders. He said warplanes intercepted over 10 cruise missiles alone, also outside Israeli airspace.

Hagari said a handful of missiles landed in Israel. Rescuers said one strike critically wounded a 10-year-old girl in a Bedouin Arab town in southern Israel. Hagari said a missile struck an army base, causing light damage but no injuries.

“A wide-scale attack by Iran is a major escalation,” he said. Asked whether Israel would respond, Hagari said only that the army “does and will do whatever is required to protect the security of the state of Israel.”

U.S. forces downed some of the Iran-launched drones flying toward Israel, according to a U.S. defense official and two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter. Israel’s military said its Arrow system handled most interceptions and noted that “strategic partners” were involved.

Iran had vowed revenge since an April 1 airstrike in Syria killed two Iranian generals inside an Iranian consular building. Iran accused Israel of being behind the attack. Israel hasn’t commented on it.

Israel and Iran have been on a collision course throughout Israel’s six-month war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. The war erupted after Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two militant groups backed by Iran, carried out a devastating cross-border attack on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. An Israeli offensive in Gaza has caused widespread devastation and killed over 33,000 people, according to local health officials.

Almost immediately after the war erupted, Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militant group in Lebanon, began attacking Israel’s northern border. The two sides have been involved in daily exchanges of fire, while Iranian-backed groups in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have launched rockets and missiles toward Israel.

In a statement carried late Saturday by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency, the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard acknowledged launching “dozens of drones and missiles towards the occupied territories and positions of the Zionist regime.”

In a later statement, the Revolutionary Guard issued a direct warning to the U.S.: “The terrorist U.S. government is warned any support or participation in harming Iran’s interests will be followed by decisive and regretting response by Iran’s armed forces.”

IRNA also quoted an anonymous official saying ballistic missiles were part of the attack. A ballistic missile moves on an arch trajectory, heading up into space before gravity brings the weapon down at a speed several times faster than the speed of sound.

Israel has a multilayered air-defense network that includes systems capable of intercepting a variety of threats including long-range missiles, cruise missiles, drones and short-range rockets. However, in a massive attack involving multiple drones and missiles, the likelihood of a strike making it through is higher.

Iran has a vast arsenal of drones and missiles. Online videos shared by Iranian state television purported to show delta-wing-style drones resembling the Iranian Shahed-136s long used by Russia in its war on Ukraine. The slow-flying drones carry bombs. Ukraine has successfully used both surface-to-air missiles and ground fire to target them.

Some Israelis watched the interceptions light up the night sky.

Air raid sirens were reported in numerous places including northern Israel, southern Israel, the northern West Bank and the Dead Sea near the Jordanian border.

Israel’s army ordered residents in the Golan Heights — near the Syrian and Lebanese borders — as well as the southern towns of Nevatim and Dimona and the Red Sea resort of Eilat “to stay near protective spaces until further notice.” Dimona is home to Israel’s main nuclear facility, and Nevatim has a major air base.

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