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Iranians celebrate attack despite Israel and US shooting down ‘vast majority’ of 300 drones, missiles

Israel shot down the “vast majority” of drones and missiles shot at them by Iran after the Jewish state was attacked in a vicious Saturday barrage, officials said.

Iran launched some 300 drones and missiles from within the Islamic Republic — as well as from proxies in Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon.

The “vast majority” of the missiles were intercepted outside of Israeli air space, the Israeli Defense Forces said in a statement.

Flares from explosions in the sky over Jerusalem as Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts missiles and drones from Iran. Xinhua/Shutterstock
The “vast majority” of the missiles were intercepted outside of Israeli air space, the Israeli Defense Forces said in a statement. x @IranObserver0

The United States came to Israel’s aid and shot down some 70 drones and three ballistic missiles.

Little damage was reported. One Israeli military base suffered minor damage and one child was hurt by drone shrapnel.

Nothing of “value” was hit in Israel, President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, CNN reported, citing White House sources.

“We intercepted, we repelled, together we shall win,” Netanyahu posted on X early Sunday.

Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told The Associated Press, meanwhile: “A wide-scale attack by Iran is a major escalation.”

Israel has instituted special measures in response to the strikes. x @Toxicity_______

When asked whether Israel would respond, Hagari responded that the army “does and will do whatever is required to protect the security of the state of Israel.”

A few missiles managed to get through Israeli defenses, he said. Israeli emergency officials confirmed that one strike critically wounded a 7-year-old girl in southern Israel.

But there were no casualties as a direct result of the Iranian strike, according to Magen David Adom [MDA], Israel’s emergency service agency.

Earlier, MDA said a 7-year-old girl was severely injured in southern Israel by shrapnel from an interceptor missile during Iran’s attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to US President Joe Biden on the phone. Handout

The agency said it responded to 31 people who were injured seeking shelter or suffering from anxiety.

Another missile struck an army base, causing some damage but no injuries were reported, Hagari said.

US military forces shot down an undisclosed number of Iranian drones, according to officials.

“In accordance with our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security, US forces in the region continue to shoot down Iranian-launched drones targeting Israel,” the official told CNN.

Hours after Iran’s attack, the IDF’s Home Front command told Israelis nationwide no longer need to stay near protected rooms — but that restrictions on gatherings announced earlier would remain in effect, The Times of Israel reported. All educational activities have also been canceled.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) during a War Cabinet meeting at the Kirya in Tel Aviv. Israeli Prime Minister Office/AFP via Getty Images

Iran’s mission to the United Nations suggested in a statement that the retaliatory strikes may be over — and warned the US to stay out of any engagements between Iran and Israel.

“The matter can be deemed concluded,” the mission said. “However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe.

It is Iran’s first-ever direct attack on Israel, and photos emerged Saturday night of Iranians celebrating in Tehran.  

The attacks followed weeks of threats from Tehran after the assassination in Damascus of a top Islamic Revolutionary Guard general that has been widely blamed on Israel.

Follow along for live updates on Iran’s attack on Israel

Jordan’s air force intercepted and shot down dozens of Iranian drones that violated its airspace and were heading to Israel, two regional security sources told Reuters.

The United Kingdom has reportedly not deployed any military resources to intercept Iranian drones but was providing backfill for US assets that have been redeployed after Iran’s attack, CNN reported.

Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed militant group, announced they fired dozens of rockets from southern Lebanon toward Israel.

An Iranian cleric chants slogans while attending an anti-Israeli gathering at the Felestin (Palestine) Square in Tehran, Iran. AP
A demonstrator waves Iranian and Palestinian flags during an anti-Israeli gathering at the Felestin (Palestine) Square in Tehran, Iran. AP

Israeli officials said they believe the attacks were aimed primarily at Israeli military targets. US officials told CNN that American forces were not targeted.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a statement after the drones were launched, declaring, “The malicious Zionist regime will be punished.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the nation shortly before the attacks and said the country was prepared for a direct attack and will respond accordingly.

“Citizens of Israel, in recent years, and even more so in recent weeks, Israel has been preparing for the possibility of a direct attack from Iran,” Netanyahu said.

“Our defense systems are deployed, and we are prepared for any scenario, both in defense and offense,” he declared. “The State of Israel is strong, the IDF is strong, the public is strong.”

Iran says it will not hesitate to take further “defensive measures” to protect its interests against any military aggression, the Iranian foreign ministry says in a statement.

“Iran, if necessary, will not hesitate to take further defensive measures to safeguard its legitimate interests against any military aggressions and unlawful use of force,” it says, according to state TV, “while reaffirming its commitment to the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.”

Biden in a meeting with his national security team in Washington, DC. WHITE HOUSE/AFP via Getty Images
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has addressed the nation.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned “the serious escalation represented by the large-scale attack launched on Israel by the Islamic Republic of Iran this evening.”

“I have repeatedly stressed that neither the region nor the world can afford another war,” he said in a statement.

Catch up on the latest news of Iran’s attack on Israel

Footage showing the drones and missiles crossing the night sky was widely shared on social media.

President Joe Biden rushed back to the White House on Saturday evening from his weekend beach getaway in Delaware for an emergency meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the attack.

The president spoke with Netanyahu on the phone, CNN reported.

Front cover of the New York Post on April 14, 2024.
A map detailing Iran and its proxies strike on Israel.

Biden again said in the face of Iran’s threats that his commitment to Israel’s security is “ironclad” — a change from the harsh criticism voiced in recent weeks over the war in Gaza.

Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said any direct hit by Iranian drones on Israeli soil “will probably” elicit a response ten-fold. 

“If Israel is hit and is hit in a sensitive location, Israel will respond heavily,” he said. He said Iran launching drone strikes “is obviously a significant escalation. There’s no other way to put this.” 

Schanzer said in theory there’s “very little” difference between Iran directly attacking Israel versus directly conducting a strike on Jerusalem, but that the optics of a direct launch from Tehran “gives Israel an opportunity now to turn the tables on the regime.”

People gather in Tehran, Iran celebrating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ attack on Israel. Getty Images
People gather in the Iranian capital celebrating Iran’s first-ever direct attack on Israel. Getty Images

“The Iranians can no longer claim to be the aggrieved party. It’s a direct strike after having coordinated literally thousands of strikes from proxies. This is a moment that I would say has been inevitable in the region for several decades now, where the regime is finally owning its own aggression and it will give the Israelis ample opportunity to respond.”

Schanzer noted though that if Israel manages to take out “95 to 95%” of Iran’s drones in Saturday’s strike “that may be the end of it,” or may choose to retaliate at some later point.  

“They’ll have the time and space to decide to do so. so much depends on how successful these drone strikes are when anticipating a response.”