Iran says first direct attack on Israel was one-off strike

Israel and western allies intercept 99% of projectiles launched from Iran on Saturday

Iran launched more than 330 projectiles towards Israel overnight Saturday, marking the first time the Islamic state has directly attacked its arch-enemy.

A total of 110 ballistic missiles, 36 cruise missiles and 185 explosive drones were fired from Iran, which has no common border with Israel, and by pro-Iranian militias based in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Remarkably, 99 per cent of the projectiles were intercepted, with only a handful landing in Israel, in what defence minister Yoav Gallant termed one of the most dramatic nights in Israel’s history.

No one was killed and only minor damage was caused. Many of the incoming projectiles were successfully intercepted by Israel’s multi-layered missile defence systems, many hundreds of kilometers from Israel’s border. Others were hit by Israeli aircraft.


The US, Britain, France and Jordan also participated in thwarting the Iranian attack, intercepting incoming projectiles.

Tehran said its strike was punishment for “Israeli crimes”, specifically the attack on its embassy compound in the Syrian capital Damascus almost two weeks ago that killed seven Revolutionary Guard officers, including two senior commanders. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the consulate attack.

Iran made clear it considered the weekend attack a one-off strike, but warned Israel it would respond with force to any retaliation, raising the spectre of a deadly, all-out war that could plunge the entire Middle East into chaos. “Should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe,” Teheran said.

Western powers, led by the United States, who have spent months criticising Israel over its conduct of the Gaza war, expressed solidarity with Israel but, at the same time, urged restraint.

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened the country’s war cabinet to consider Israel’s response following warnings from senior Israeli officials of a “significant, powerful response on an unprecedented scale”. But Washington made it clear it sought de-escalation and does not want a regional conflict.

War cabinet member Benny Gantz said Israel will “exact a price” from Iran in response to its attack on the country when the time is right. But, striking a conciliatory note, he stressed that Iran is a global problem. “Iran is a regional challenge and it is also a danger to Israel and yesterday the world resoundingly stood by Israel in the face of danger,” he said. “It is a strategic achievement that we must leverage for the sake of Israel’s security.”

Defence minister Yoav Gallant also stressed the importance of maintaining the alliance that thwarted Iran’s attack. “Together with the US and other countries, we have established a strong and powerful alliance, with co-ordination and synchronisation between the defence establishments of Israel, the US and our partners. The result is a complete containment of the threats except for a very, very small margin.”

Far-right ministers called for an immediate and powerful Israeli response. National security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir urged Israel to “go berserk” in order “to create deterrence in the Middle East”. Finance minister Bezalel Smotrich said Israel’s response will echo throughout the region for generations to come. “The eyes of the entire Middle East and the whole world are turned towards Israel,” he said. “If we ignore the Iranian attack, God forbid, we will put ourselves and our children in immediate existential threat.”

The weekend strike marked the first time Israel has been attacked by a sovereign state since the 1991 Gulf War. Then, Israel acceded to the American request not to retaliate against Iraq so as not to unravel the international coalition. It remains to be seen if the current Israeli government will adopt a similar policy of restraint.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem