Israeli leaders weigh up options in wake of Iran attack

Speculation mounts that Israel will respond with cyberattack targeting the Islamic Republic’s economy

Israeli leaders were weighing options on Monday night on how to respond to Iran’s unprecedented aerial attack over the weekend. Officials said such a large assault, involving more than 300 drones and missiles launched directly from Iran for the first time, could not pass without an Israeli response.

The American news website Axios reported that defence minister Yoav Gallant told US defence secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday night that Israel had no choice but to respond to Iran’s attack.

According to the Wall Street Journal, US and western officials said they hoped both Israel and Iran could come away with a sense of victory, giving them a path that would limit further escalation.

It appears that Israel is aiming to inflict significant damage on Iran, preferably after receiving approval from Washington, without causing large-scale casualties and without prompting a military response from Tehran that will plunge the entire region into chaos.


A number of military options have been presented by the army to the political leadership, but there was also speculation that Israel may opt for a cyberattack targeting key sectors of the Islamic Republic’s economy.

Teheran says it is not seeking an escalation but will respond “instantly and stronger than before” if Israel retaliates.

Israel’s military chief of staff, Herzi Halevi, said the country would respond to the Iranian attack. “This launch of so many missiles, cruise missiles, and drones into Israeli territory will be met with a response,” he said, speaking from the Nevatim air force base in southern Israel, which sustained some damage in the attack.

As Israel considered its reaction, sustained international pressure mounted for a de-escalation.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken said the focus was on a diplomatic response. “Strength and wisdom need to be different sides of the same coin,” he said. Germany, France and Britain also said they were urging Israel to avoid escalating the conflict with Iran.

Meanwhile, additional details have emerged about Iran’s weekend attack. US media outlets reported that half of Iran’s ballistic missiles either failed to launch or fell from the sky before reaching their targets, and some damaged buildings inside Iran.

According to Egyptian and Saudi sources who spoke with the Wall Street Journal, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates secretly agreed to share intelligence about Iran’s attack following talks with Washington.

In Gaza, Israel is gearing up for an attack on the southern city of Rafah after Hamas rejected the plan drawn up by mediators for a ceasefire and hostage-release deal. However, the plans have been put on hold due to the tension with Iran.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, more than 33,700 Palestinians have been killed since the war began. Israel says 1,200 people were killed and 253 hostages seized in the surprise Hamas attack on October 7th. Rumours circulated in Gaza over the last few days that Israel was allowing women and young children to return to their homes in northern Gaza. Thousands of residents began heading north on the coastal highway road but were turned back by Israeli troops. Israeli officials confirmed that there has been no change of policy. Some 133 hostages remain in Hamas captivity. It is not known how many hostages have died.

Washington has confirmed that there has been a significant increase in humanitarian assistance reaching Gaza over the last few days after Israel opened a new crossing to northern Gaza, where the most significant shortages of food supplies were reported by aid groups.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has accused Israel of destroying almost all the buildings inside the buffer zone it is establishing along the length of the Gaza border.

The United Nations Satellite Centre found that 90 per cent of the structures within the 1km buffer zone have been destroyed or damaged: 3,033 buildings have been completely demolished, 327 seriously damaged and 266 moderately damaged, according to the report.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

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