Iran launches broad aerial attack on Israel in retaliation for airstrike

President Joe Biden returns to Washington from his Delaware vacation home due to events in Middle East

President Joe Biden arrives back at the White House in Washington, ending his weekend in Delaware a day earlier than planned, on Saturday, April 13, 2024. Iran launched drones from its territory toward Israel on Saturday, in retaliation for a deadly Israeli airstrike in early April on the Iranian Embassy complex in Damascus, the Israeli and Iranian militaries said. (Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times)

Jerusalem • Iran launched a wave of drones and missiles toward Israel on Saturday evening, retaliating for a deadly Israeli airstrike on the Iranian Embassy complex in the Syrian capital this month, Israeli and Iranian armed forces said.

The attack, which is believed to be the first direct attack from Iranian soil targeting Israel, threatened to open a volatile chapter in the long-running shadow war between the two nations and was a significant escalation in hostilities.

The Israeli military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said in a televised briefing that Israeli forces were tracking the drones. Just before 2 a.m. local time, the muffled booms of what appeared to be Israeli air defenses were heard over Jerusalem, and air-raid sirens sounded across vast sections of the country. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was meeting with his war Cabinet, according to a statement from his office.

The funeral procession in Tehran for seven Iranian military commanders killed by an Israeli airstrike in Syria, on April 5, 2024. American intelligence analysts and officials said on Friday that they expected Iran to strike multiple targets inside Israel within the next few days in retaliation for an Israeli bombing in the Syrian capital on April 1 that killed several senior Iranian commanders.(Arash Khamooshi/The New York Times)

Before the drones and missiles were expected to arrive, two Israeli officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss military intelligence said the areas of impact were likely to be the Golan Heights and an Israeli air force base in the Negev Desert. Hezbollah, the Iran-backed group in Lebanon, announced that it had also fired dozens of rockets at Israeli barracks in the Golan Heights, a plateau on Israel’s northeast border with Syria and Lebanon that has been occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War in 1967.

The White House vowed to help Israel defend itself. President Joe Biden cut short a weekend trip to his vacation home in Delaware and returned to the White House to huddle with his national security team.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which is responsible for the security of Iran’s borders, said in a statement broadcast on state television that it had launched “dozens” of drones and missiles toward Israel “in reaction to the Zionist regime’s crimes.”

Tasnim, a semiofficial news agency affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard, reported that attacks on Israel had been launched “from all directions.” Dozens of drones from Iran “were launched toward targets in occupied territories,” it said.

Hagari called Iran’s strikes “a severe and dangerous escalation.”

The action came after a week of diplomacy and uncertainty about how far Iran would go in response to the Israeli attack in Damascus, the Syrian capital, on April 1, which killed three top Iranian commanders and four officers.