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Iran warns Israel of severe consequences after retaliatory attack

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Iran urged Israel on Sunday to refrain from military retaliation following an unprecedented attack overnight, which Tehran justified as a response to a deadly strike on its consulate building in Damascus

Iranians celebrate on a street after the IRGC retaliatory attack on Israel, Tehran, Iran, April 14, 2024. (Reuters Photo)
Iranians celebrate on a street after the IRGC retaliatory attack on Israel,
Tehran, Iran, April 14, 2024. (Reuters Photo)

“The matter is considered concluded,” Iran’s mission to the United Nations stated on social media platform X just hours after the operation began late Saturday.

“However, if the Israeli regime makes another mistake, Iran’s response will be significantly more severe,” the Iranian mission warned.

No Iranian leaders have yet spoken out to justify the attack, marking the first time Iran has directly launched a military assault on Israeli territory.

Late Saturday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps announced they had launched “dozens of drones and missiles” toward military sites in Israel.

“Iran’s military action was in response to the Zionist regime’s aggression against our diplomatic premises in Damascus” earlier this month, the Iranian mission to the U.N. said.

The attack, according to the mission, was “conducted on the strength of Article 51 of the U.N. Charter pertaining to legitimate defense.”

Israel’s army said it had shot down 99% of the drones and missiles with the help of the U.S. and other allies, declaring Iran’s attack “foiled.”

The Iranian army chief of staff, Mohammad Bagheri, said the attack had “achieved all its objectives.”

Bagheri said Iran’s retaliation targeted an “intelligence center” and the air base from which Tehran says the Israeli F-35 jets took off to strike the Damascus consulate on April 1.

“Both these centers were significantly destroyed and put out of order,” he said, though Israel maintains that the attack only resulted in minor damage.

“There is no intention to continue this operation,” he said, calling on Israel to avoid taking further action against Iran, which, according to Bagheri, would result in a “much bigger” response.

Attack telegraphed

Experts have suggested that Saturday’s slow-moving drone attack was calibrated to represent a show of power but also allow some wiggle room.

“It appears that Iran telegraphed its attack on Israel to demonstrate it can strike using different capabilities, to complicate the (Israeli army’s) ability to neutralize the assault but also to provide an off-ramp to pause escalation,” said Nishank Motwani, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Washington.

“Tehran can escalate if it chooses to across a range of vectors,” said Motwani, including via Lebanon’s Iran-backed armed group Hezbollah, sea attacks, “or hitting soft Israeli targets globally.”

Over the last two weeks, the Iranian authorities had repeatedly vowed to “punish” Israel after the assassination of seven Guards, including two generals of the Quds Force, in the attack that leveled the Iranian Consulate in Damascus.

Iran has blamed Israel for the attack.

In the days after the strike, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Israel would be “slapped for that action.”

Since the 1979 revolution in Iran that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah, Israel has been the sworn enemy of the Islamic Republic.

Iran has often called for the destruction of Israel, with the support of the Palestinian cause, one of the pillars of the Islamic revolution.

However, until Saturday, Tehran had also refrained from a direct attack on Israel.

Instead, it has backed members of the “Axis of Resistance” against Israel, including Hezbollah and Yemen’s Tehran-aligned Houthi rebels, since the outbreak of conflict in Gaza between Israel and Palestine on Oct. 7.

Hours before the strikes on Saturday, Iran seized an Israeli-linked container ship in the Gulf which Washington called “an act of piracy.”

Next slap will be fiercer

During the night, Tehran also warned the U.S., urging it to “stay away” from its conflict with Israel.

“Any threat by the terrorist government of America and the Zionist regime from any country will result in a reciprocal and proportionate response,” the Revolutionary Guards warned in a statement early Sunday.

“If necessary,” Tehran “will not hesitate to take defensive measures to protect its interests against any aggressive military action,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry said.

“The next slap will be fiercer,” warned a new mural unveiled overnight in Tehran’s Palestine Square, where several thousands gathered, protesting Israel and the U.S.

Before Tehran launched its attack, Israel warned Iran that it would suffer “the consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further.”

Israel has not revealed what a potential response would look like.

An Israeli attack on Iran’s territory, possibly targeting military or nuclear sites, could not be ruled out, according to experts.

As a precaution, Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport, which is mainly dedicated to domestic flights, will remain closed on Sunday until 12 p.m. (8:30 a.m. GMT), according to the Mehr news agency.

Several international airlines have suspended flights over Iranian airspace.

Countries including Russia and France have also asked their citizens to avoid traveling to Iran and Israel.