Israel pledges response to Iran strikes as allies push restraint

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Israel’s armed forces chief has vowed to respond to Iran’s unprecedented attack against the country, even after appeals for restraint poured in from world leaders fearing wider regional conflict. During six months of war between Israel and Iran-backed militant group Hamas in Gaza, Iran’s proxies around the region have stepped up attacks on Israel and its allies, saying they are acting in support of Palestinians in Gaza.

Tensions were already high before Iran launched its first-ever assault on Israeli territory, firing hundreds of missiles and drones in retaliation for a deadly April 1 strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus. “This launch of so many (Iranian) missiles, cruise missiles, and UAVs into the territory of the State of Israel will be met with a response,” Israeli armed forces chief Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi said Monday, addressing troops at the Nevatim airbase, which was hit in Iran’s Saturday night barrage.

The Israeli army has said the vast majority of the weapons were shot down — with the help of the United States and other allies — and the attack caused only minimal damage. Western governments, including those that supported Israel in its defence, have warned against an escalation, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with his war cabinet late Monday to discuss next steps, Israeli media reported. Iran has previously said it would consider the matter “concluded” unless Israel retaliated, and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told his Chinese counterpart in a call on Tuesday that Iran was “willing to exercise restraint” and had no intention of further escalating tensions.

China’s top diplomat Wang Yi said it was “believed that Iran can handle the situation well and spare the region further turmoil”. The United States has repeatedly appealed to China — a close partner of Iran and a top buyer of its US-sanctioned oil — to use its influence over Tehran to manage tensions in the Middle East.

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