Israel hopes its response to Iranian salvo will end ‘exchange of blows’

By Thomson Reuters Apr 16, 2024 | 10:23 AM

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – When Israel responds to the unprecedented weekend Iranian drone and missile salvoes, its aim will be to send a message of deterrence to Tehran while drawing a line under this round of hostilities, a senior Israeli lawmaker said on Tuesday.

Among Israeli considerations in planning a counter-strike are the war-wariness of Westerns powers, the risk to air crews from any sorties against Iran and the need to keep focus on the more than half-year-long Gaza offensive, Yuli Edelstein said.

“We’ll have to react. Iranians will know we reacted. And I sincerely hope that it will teach them a lesson that you can’t attack a sovereign country just because you find it doable,” said Edelstein, who chairs the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee.

But he added: “I sincerely hope that they will understand that the it’s not in their interest to continue this kind of exchange of blows. We are not interested in a full-scale war. We are not, as I have said, in the business of revenge.”

Israeli officials say the response to the Iranian attacks will be agreed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet. Edelstein, a former cabinet minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party whose role now involves reviewing government decisions, did not make clear to what extent he had been briefed on operational plans.

The launch of hundreds of pilotless kamikaze planes, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles on Saturday night marked the first direct assault on Israel by Iran. Most of the threats were downed by Israeli, U.S., British, French and Jordanian forces.

Iran called the barrage retaliation for an Israeli strike that destroyed a building in its embassy compound in Damascus and killed two of its generals and several other officers.

Israel – which has not taken responsibility for the April 1 attack – says it cannot allow an open front with the Iranians, especially as it battles Tehran-backed militias in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

A Channel 13 TV poll found 29% of Israelis support an immediate strike on Iran, 37% support attacking at a later date and 25% oppose such action.

The Iranian barrage wounded an Israeli girl and caused limited damage to an airbase. Asked if the Israeli response would seek to avoid greater casualties, Edelstein said targets were still being discussed but “we always take always take into consideration the international norms” and Israel did not intentionally target civilians.

Israel used warplanes and high-altitude interceptors to fend off the Iranian salvoes, which Edelstein said cost “a huge amount of money” that was worth investing on self-defence.

Among his committee’s duties was ensuring Israel had steady supplies of interceptor missiles. He said rumours that Israel was running short of interceptors were untrue.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Peter Graff)