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Israel Fires Missiles at Iran in Weak Attack

19/04/24

In the early hours of the morning, reports emerged of an Israeli missile striking a military installation in Iran, coupled with the interception of drones over Isfahan. This event has escalated the longstanding tensions between Israel and Iran, marking a serious intensification in their conflict. The attack was confirmed by US officials and extensively covered by international media. Concurrently, drones were intercepted over Isfahan, adding to the gravity of the situation. The target of the Israeli attack was Isfahan, a central city of critical military significance to Iran, known for its airbase and missile production facilities. 

The sequence of events began when Iranian state media reported the interception of three small drones over Isfahan. This was shortly followed by the activation of air defence systems which reportedly managed to neutralise the aerial threats without any casualties. The airspace above key regions, including Tehran and Isfahan, was closed, disrupting flight operations for approximately four and a half hours.

General Siavash Mihandoust, a high-ranking military official in Isfahan, was quick to address the public and media, stating that the air defence batteries had engaged and successfully downed a “suspicious object” in the sky. He reassured the public that there was no substantial damage to military or civilian infrastructure.[1]

These events appear to be a continuation of the tit-for-tat strikes between Israel and Iran, which have escalated over recent months. This particular strike, however, seems to have been carefully calculated to avoid significant material damage or loss of life, perhaps to minimise the risk of a full-scale retaliatory attack by Iran. The use of drones, possibly launched from close proximity to the target, points to a shift in tactics, focusing on precision and minimising collateral damage.

This incident underscores the volatile nature of the regional security environment, where military actions are often cloaked in secrecy and information is tightly controlled. Both the choice of target and the method of attack reflect a deeply strategic approach to a conflict that continues to simmer beneath the surface of diplomatic interactions. The lack of official commentary from Israeli sources further adds to the opacity surrounding the motives and intended messages behind such military actions. As the international community watches closely, the implications of such strikes continue to influence diplomatic relations and regional stability.

A senior Iranian official indicated that Iran does not intend to retaliate immediately against Israel, according to a statement to Reuters on Friday. This came hours after reports surfaced that Israel had conducted an attack on Iranian territory.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noted that the origin of the incident has not been definitively confirmed. “We have not been subjected to any external attack, and the situation seems more like an infiltration rather than an assault,” the official explained. [1]

Additionally, a report from Reuters highlighted that an Iranian analyst mentioned on state TV that the mini drones shot down by air defences in Isfahan were operated by infiltrators within Iran.

The revelation that the mini drones intercepted over Isfahan were possibly operated by infiltrators within Iran’s borders marks a significant escalation and a major security concern for Tehran. The notion that Israel could potentially orchestrate such attacks from within Iranian territory implies not just a breach of air space but also a serious compromise of internal security. This kind of infiltration indicates that hostile entities could have the capability and the local support necessary to launch operations deep inside Iran, bypassing traditional defensive perimeters that are designed to repel external threats.

The implication of such internal vulnerabilities being exploited is profound. It underscores a new level of threat that extends beyond conventional cross-border military tactics and into the realm of covert operations, potentially involving espionage and the recruitment of local assets within Iran. This situation could force Iranian security and intelligence agencies to shift significant resources to counteract internal threats, including surveillance and counterintelligence measures, which might strain their operational capabilities and focus.

 

Background of Rising Conflicts

The recent Israeli strike in Iran and subsequent aerial confrontations represent a significant escalation in a long-standing conflict that has frequently extended across the region. Israel has a history of conducting operations against Iranian forces and their allies, primarily in Syria, aimed at curbing Iran’s military influence and preventing the establishment of a permanent Iranian military presence on its borders. These operations have often targeted air defence systems, military bases, and personnel linked to Iran’s strategic interests.

The context of this conflict deepened with the events following the Hamas-led attack on southern Israeli communities on 7 October, which was met by a fierce Israeli military response in Gaza which has resulted in over 32000 Palestinian civilian casualties so far. This led to several Iranian-backed groups launching attacks on Israel, expressing solidarity with the Palestinians. The regional stakes were further heightened on 1 April when an Israeli airstrike targeted the Iranian consulate in Damascus, resulting in the deaths of two Republican Guard generals and six commanders. This attack was a significant provocation, given the high-ranking nature of the casualties and the symbolic breach of sovereign territory.

The Israeli strike on the Damascus consulate particularly inflamed tensions, not just by raising the spectre of wider conflict but also by challenging the norms of international conduct. It highlighted the precarious balance of power and the fragile nature of regional peace, which is continuously threatened by such aggressive military actions. These dynamics are crucial to understanding the strategic calculations of both Israel and Iran as they navigate their rivalry within the complex geopolitics of the Middle East.

According to David Heart of the Middle East Eye, this was not just about curbing arms flows to Hezbollah or repelling Iranian-backed groups at the northern border. Instead, it was a direct attempt to decimate the Iranian leadership stationed in Syria.

Amid a prolonged and intense conflict in Gaza, where Israeli forces are encountering resilient Palestinian resistance, the war has brought immense destruction and suffering. Despite the severe conditions, the resolve among Hamas fighters remains unyielded; they continue to gain recruits and resources, asserting that the occupation efforts have not dampened their capabilities or morale. As Netanyahu faces growing domestic opposition and mounting international criticism, his actions in Damascus seem designed not just to alter the tactical balance but also to reassert Israel’s position under severe pressure.

This attack also highlighted deeper geopolitical manoeuvres, with implications that Netanyahu was aware of, potentially aiming to draw the U.S. into further conflict with Iran—a strategy seen by some as an attempt to reaffirm U.S. military support for Israeli actions. The response from Tehran was measured, aiming to establish a new precedent in its engagement with Israel, signalling its enduring influence and control in the region, particularly over strategic points like the Strait of Hormuz, and asserting its capability to retaliate without escalating to full-scale war. [4]

Iran’s response was swift, with Tehran launching hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel the following Saturday. While most of these were intercepted, assistance from the US, Jordan, and other countries was crucial in mitigating the impact of this barrage. 

Crucially, Israel reportedly spent approximately US$1.5 billion (around RM7.1 billion) in a single night to defend against the attacks from Iran which included ballistic missiles and suicide drones. According to a report by Israel’s Yediot Ahronoth, Brig. Gen. Ram Aminach, a former financial advisor to the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defence Forces, mentioned that the cost to protect Israel that night was in the range of 4-5 billion Shekel (equivalent to $1.5 billion or RM7.1 billion). This amount was specifically for intercepting the Iranian ballistic missiles and drones.[2]

Additionally, this figure does not account for the costs related to deploying dozens or even hundreds of fighter jets needed to shoot down these missiles and drones while they were still in the air.

The scale and intensity of the Iranian response underscored the volatile potential for escalation, drawing regional and international concern over the possibility of the Gaza conflict spilling over into a broader regional war.

 

Reactions to the attacks 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed that Iranian nuclear facilities were unharmed. IAEA Chief Rafael Grossi has urged military restraint, emphasising that nuclear installations should not be combat targets.

Ali Ahmadi, an Iranian arms control expert, suggested that the muted impact of the strike was possibly intentional, indicating that Israel faces operational limitations. Ahmadi believes that publicising the attack’s limited nature serves Iran’s interests by setting the stage for a tempered response, despite prior aggressive rhetoric.[3]

The incident has sparked intense debate within Israel and abroad. Israeli Opposition Leader Yair Lapid condemned National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir for his dismissive public remarks about the attack, which he remarked were ‘Lame’ on social media, accusing him of jeopardising Israel’s security and diplomatic standing.

Internationally, the response has been one of caution but clear concern. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for all parties to maintain regional stability and avoid further escalations. Similarly, Oman’s foreign ministry condemned the attack, advocating for a ceasefire in Gaza and a resolution to the Palestinian issue to achieve lasting peace in the region.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed grave concerns about the potential for these events to spiral into a full-scale regional conflict. He emphasised the precariousness of the current situation, marked by sharp escalations in rhetoric and military actions, urging all involved to exercise “maximum restraint.”

Amidst the escalating military tensions, the mood among the Iranian populace appears surprisingly composed. There have been no reports of panic buying of essential supplies such as food and fuel, indicating a cautious yet positive outlook among the people. This resilience reflects a society that has perhaps grown accustomed to geopolitical pressures and shows a level of confidence in its government’s ability to manage the situation. Such calmness also suggests that the Iranian public, while alert to the developments, remains hopeful that escalation can be avoided, maintaining a degree of normalcy in their daily lives despite the looming threats.

 

Conclusion

In light of the recent developments involving drone interceptions and allegations of internal infiltrations, the scenario underscores a concerning trend in Israel’s military strategy towards Iran. The possibility that Israel might be orchestrating attacks from within Iran’s borders represents a significant shift in tactics, suggesting a desperation to engage Iran more directly in conflict. This strategy not only increases the likelihood of a wider regional war but also points to Israel’s intent to provoke a direct confrontation with Iran, potentially dragging Tehran into a more extensive military engagement.

Israel’s approach is further emboldened by the apparent tacit support—or at least the lack of consequences—from its Western allies. This implicit backing has provided Israel with a certain level of impunity, enabling it to conduct its military operations with considerable freedom. The strategic calculus seems to rely on the assumption that Western allies will either overtly support or silently condone these actions, thereby reducing the diplomatic repercussions Israel might face on the international stage.

Israel’s confidence in engaging in aggressive military tactics against Iran is significantly bolstered by unwavering American and Western support. This backing is manifest in several ways, most notably through the Biden administration’s provision of diplomatic and military cover. In the wake of the ongoing conflict, the U.S. has fast-tracked arms shipments to Israel and actively blocked United Nations resolutions calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Such actions demonstrate a clear alignment with Israel, reinforcing its strategic posture in the region.

Despite some domestic criticism, particularly from Democratic lawmakers who have voiced concerns over Israel’s military actions, including the killing of foreign aid workers with the international charity World Central Kitchen, the overall support structure remains intact. President Joe Biden has expressed some criticisms of Israel’s actions but has stopped short of concluding that Israel is in violation of international law. This stance by the U.S. administration essentially signals to Israel that, despite some internal dissent, it can continue its military operations with the expectation of continued strategic and logistical support from its most powerful ally. This assurance likely emboldens Israel to pursue its military objectives with increased vigour, aware that the repercussions from its key allies will be limited, thus shaping a geopolitical landscape where it feels confident to push boundaries further.

The culmination of these tactics and the strategic environment suggests that Israel is not only attempting to neutralise perceived threats but is also actively trying to escalate the situation to justify more aggressive actions in the region. This approach risks a significant destabilisation in the Middle East, with the potential to trigger broader conflicts that could extend beyond the immediate areas of Israeli and Iranian influence. The international community must remain vigilant and consider the broader implications of such strategies, which threaten to undermine regional stability and international peace.

 

 

[1] Middle East Eye. (2024). Israel stages attack in Iran with explosions heard over Isfahan. [online] Available at: https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/israel-iran-strikes-iran-explosions-heard-isfahan.

[2] Defence Security Asia (2024). In Just One Night, Israel Spends $1.5 Billion to Intercept Iranian Missiles, Drones. [online] Defence Security Asia. Available at: https://defencesecurityasia.com/en/in-just-one-night-israel-spends-1-5-billion-to-intercept-iranian-missiles-drones/.‌

[3] Al Jazeera. (2024.). Three drones downed after explosions heard in Iran’s Isfahan: State media. [online] Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/4/19/israeli-missiles-hit-site-in-iran-explosions-heard-in-isfahan-report.

[4] Middle East Eye. (2024.). How Iran attacks exposed Israel’s weakness. [online] Available at: https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/iran-israel-attacks-weakness-exposed-how.

Tariq Kurd was born and grew up in Hertfordshire. His family is originally from Halabja, Kurdistan but due to periodic migration currently reside across the Baluchistan region.
He has a BA Hons. in History from the Open University. Besides English, Tariq can speak Baluchi and Brahvi, he is also conversant in Persian and Pashto.
His has an eclectic range of interests including military and tribal history. Tariq lives in London and is currently studying Islamic apologetics through the Sapience Institute.