Iran launches drone attack against Israel as Biden rushes to White House


Israel launched dozens of drones towards Israel on Saturday at the start of an attack following days of acute tension building up in the region and warnings from the US and elsewhere about a wider regional conflict erupting.

R Adm Daniel Hagari, an Israeli military spokesperson, said that Iran launched the new offensive late on Saturday, a development that brings the two countries to the brink of all-out conflict after more than a decade of shadow war and soaring stress six months into Israel’s war in Gaza following the Hamas attack last October.

Joe Biden rushed back to Washington on Saturday afternoon from a weekend trip to Delaware as it became clear from leadership signals that some sort of an attack by Iran was imminent.

The drones were understood to be heading towards Israel, just a few hours after the White House had first announced the US president was returning to Washington “to consult with his national security team about events in the Middle East” amid the heightened tension between Israel and Iran.

Related: World waits anxiously for Iranian response to Israel’s killing of top general

The US president had been due to spend the weekend in Delaware at his residence in Rehoboth Beach but early on Saturday afternoon set off at short notice to return to the White House.

This followed Biden saying on Friday that he expects an Iranian attack on Israel “sooner rather than later” and issued a last-ditch message to Tehran, saying: “Don’t.”

Earlier on Saturday, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard Corps in the strait of Hormuz, 50 nautical miles off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, seized an Israeli-affiliated container ship.

The ship’s operator, the Italian-Swiss group MSC, later confirmed that Iranian authorities had boarded it, rappelling from a helicopter. The White House condemned the seizure of the British-owned vessel.

National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the US strongly condemned the seizure and urged Iran to release the ship and crew immediately.

“We will work with our partners to hold Iran to account for its actions,” she said, warning that “seizing a civilian vessel without provocation is a blatant violation of international law and an act of piracy.”.

Iran has threatened reprisals against Israel for a strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria on 1 April, in which seven members of the Revolutionary Guards including two generals were killed, sparking fears that an already volatile climate in the Middle East, with Israel and Hamas in Gaza at war, could quickly spiral further.

Lloyd Austin, the US defense secretary, spoke with Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, on Saturday to discuss urgent regional threats in the Middle East and “reiterated unwavering US support for Israel’s defense”, according to the Pentagon.

The US, along with its allies, had sent direct messages to Tehran to warn against further escalating the conflict.

The US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, also spoke with his counterpart to reinforce Washington’s “ironclad commitment to the security of Israel”.

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group said it fired dozens of rockets at Israeli artillery positions on Friday, a bombardment it said was in response to Israeli strikes across the Israel-Lebanon border, the latest in near-daily exchanges of artillery.

Reuters, Agence France-Presse and the Associated Press contributed reporting



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