UPDATED: Iran Launches Major Drone and Missile Attack on Israel

Tel Aviv condemned the move as a “dangerous escalation” and claimed to have repelled most incoming projectiles

UPDATED: 4/13/24 at 10:35pm ET

The Iranian military fired a massive barrage of drones and missiles targeting sites in Israel, with Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) saying the attack was retaliation for a deadly Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus.

The attack was announced on Saturday afternoon in an IRGC statement carried by Iranian state media, which said that “dozens” of UAVs and missiles were “fired at the occupied territories and positions of the Zionist regime.” The elite military unit claimed to have struck “important military targets,” though shared few details about the results of the operation.

“Using its strategic intelligence capabilities, missiles and drones, [Iran] attacked the important military targets of the Zionist terrorist army in the occupied territories. And we successfully hit and destroyed them,” the IRGC said in a statement later on Saturday.

Tel Aviv was quick to condemn the attack, with Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari deeming it a “severe and dangerous escalation.” The IDF later said “dozens” of surface-to-surface missiles were launched in addition to the drone swarm, noting a total of some 200 projectiles. An unnamed senior IDF official also told local media that Tel Aviv was preparing an “unprecedented response” against Tehran, with Israel’s war cabinet expected to discuss the issue on Sunday.

While the military claimed “most” of the Iranian projectiles had been intercepted by allied states even before reaching Israeli airspace, it acknowledged “minor damage to the infrastructure” of an unspecified military base in southern Israel, as well as “a few injuries.”

Earlier, Iranian media suggested the IRGC targeted the Nevatim Airbase in the Negev Desert, one of Israel’s largest installations in the area, which houses some of its US-supplied F-35 fighter jets. A state-affiliated Iranian news outlet published unconfirmed footage purporting to show successful strikes in the Negev region.

The White House said it was following the situation closely and reiterated Washington’s “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Later on Saturday night, President Joe Biden said he met with his national security team for updates on the attack, but shared no other details.

A number of media reports citing unnamed US officials – including by Reuters, ABC News and CBS – said American forces helped to shoot down a significant number of the projectiles. An Israeli military source added that at least 100 drones were intercepted by US and UK troops, while the Jordanian Air Force also assisted in the response, according to Reuters.

Though US officials have yet to announce any military response, congressional sources told the Daily Mail the Pentagon planned to deploy multiple warships carrying some 2,500 Marines to the Eastern Mediterranean. Washington has made similar shows of force throughout the ongoing war in Gaza, stationing aircraft carriers and other naval assets in the region since last October.

When asked whether Washington would directly intervene in hostilities between Israel and Iran during a press briefing earlier this week, Pentagon spokesman Patrick Ryder declined to “get into hypotheticals,” only citing the US’ “ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.”

The Iranian attack comes weeks after Israeli forces bombed Tehran’s consulate building in the Syrian capital, killing seven officials, including a senior IRGC commander, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi. The attack triggered a major spike in regional tensions, and Iran vowed to respond in kind.

In another apparent reprisal earlier on Saturday, IRGC commandos stormed a cargo vessel with ties to Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer as it transited the Persian Gulf and took control of the ship. The Portuguese-flagged vessel, MSC Aries, and its international crew of 25 remain in Iranian custody.

Will Porter is assistant news editor at the Libertarian Institute and a regular contributor at Antiwar.com. Find more of his work at Consortium News and ZeroHedge.