Iran has launched a drone attack on Israel : NPR

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks on March 1 in Tehran, Iran.

Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

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Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks on March 1 in Tehran, Iran.

Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

In a major escalation of conflict in the Middle East, Israeli officials said late Saturday night that Iran had launched a drone attack toward Israel.

The drones would take hours to arrive in Israeli airspace, Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said. He warned Israelis to stay in safe rooms for 10 minutes if sirens in their areas go off.

In a statement broadcast on Iranian state television, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it had launched dozens of drones and missiles against targets in Israel.

In a Saturday night address to Israelis, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his country was ready for “any scenario, both defensively and offensively.”

“We have determined a clear principle: Whoever harms us, we will harm them. We will defend ourselves against any threat and will do so level-headedly and with determination,” Netanyahu said.

The launch was confirmed by the White House, where a spokesperson said President Biden would monitor the attack from the Situation Room alongside top defense and diplomatic officials.

“President Biden has been clear: our support for Israel’s security is ironclad,” said National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson. “The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran.”

The launch comes four days after Iran’s leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed retaliation for an April 1 strike on an Iranian consulate in the Syrian capital of Damascus. Iran said the strike had killed seven members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, including two generals, and it blamed Israel for the attack.

By Saturday, as anticipation had grown over a possible retaliation, Israeli officials warned residents living in communities near Gaza and the Lebanon border to limit the size of gatherings and to work indoors or within reach of a shelter. Schools across Israel were closed through Monday.

“Iran is a terrorist state — the world is seeing this now more than ever,” Israel’s defense minister Yoav Gallant said Saturday, hours before the launch. “We are determined to defend our citizens against this terrorism, and we know how to respond to it.”

In anticipation of a possible attack, President Biden had cut short a trip to Delaware in order to return to the White House Saturday. “We are devoted to the defense of Israel. We will support Israel. We will help defend Israel. And Iran will not succeed,” Biden said Friday.

The strike and retaliation represent an escalation that many officials worldwide had expressed worry about ever since the outbreak of war between Israel and the Gaza-based militant group Hamas on Oct. 7, the day Hamas led an attack on Israel that left some 1,200 people dead.

Iran has long supplied Hamas with funds and weapons. The White House has not directly linked Iran to the Oct. 7 attack.

In the six months since Oct. 7, Israel has bombarded Gaza and conducted a devastating ground invasion that has left much of the territory in ruins and more than 33,000 Palestinians dead, according to Palestinian health officials.

Additional reporting by NPR’s Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv and NPR’s Jane Arraf in Amman.

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