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UK FM says Israel has decided to retaliate against Iran

April 17, 2024 at 1:34 pm

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) hosts UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs David Cameron (L) in Jerusalem on November 23, 2023. [Israeli Government (GPO) – Anadolu Agency]

Israel has clearly decided to retaliate against Iran for last weekend’s missile and drone attack, Britain’s Foreign Minister David Cameron said during a visit to the occupation state on Wednesday, Reuters has reported. It’s the starkest warning yet of another volley coming in regional escalation.

World powers are striving to prevent a wider outbreak of conflict in the Middle East after Iran’s attack on Saturday night, which involved hundreds of missiles and drones, the first time that the Islamic Republic has attacked Israel directly after decades of confrontation by proxies. The attack was launched in response to an Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus on 1 April, which killed two generals and several other Iranian officers.

More than six months into Israel’s military offensive against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, ostensibly to crush the Iran-backed Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, diplomats are searching for a way to avert direct fighting between Israel and Iran.

The Iranian missiles and drones launched on Saturday were mostly shot down by Israel and its allies, including the US and UK, and caused no deaths and only minor damage. However, Israel says that it must retaliate to preserve the credibility of its deterrent factor. Iran says that it considers the matter closed for now but will retaliate again if Israel does hit out.

“It’s clear the Israelis are making a decision to act,” Cameron told reporters early in his visit to occupied Jerusalem. “We hope that they do so in a way that does as little to escalate this as possible.”

Washington and other Western governments hope new economic sanctions against Iran will help persuade Israel to limit the scope of its retaliation. Cameron said that Britain wanted to see coordinated sanctions against Iran by the G7 democracies, which are meeting this week in Italy. “Iran needs to be given a clear unequivocal message by the G7,” he insisted.

Israel is expected to discuss its response to Iran at a meeting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet, which also includes centrist rivals brought into the government as a unity gesture after the Hamas cross-border incursion on 7 October, since when Israel has killed 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza — most of them children and women — and wounded almost 75,000 others. Thousands more are feared dead under the rubble of their homes destroyed by Israel. Around 1,140 Israelis were killed on 7 October, many of them by tanks and helicopter gunships of the Israel Defence Forces. Around 240 were taken back to Gaza as hostages.

Washington is planning to impose new sanctions targeting Iran’s missile and drone programme in the coming days and expects that its allies will follow suit, said National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Tuesday.

READ: UN: Israel’s attacks on schools in Gaza are ‘systematic’

Earlier, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that the US would use sanctions, and work with allies, to keep disrupting Iran’s “malign and destabilising activity”.

No sanctions against Israel have been mooted by any government or international organisation for its breach of international conventions by targeting the Iranian diplomatic compound.

Nor, indeed, have any been proposed for Israel’s genocide, war crimes and crimes against in humanity in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem.

According to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, speaking in Brussels after an emergency video conference of EU foreign ministers, some member states had asked for sanctions against Iran to be expanded. He said that the proposal would expand a sanctions regime that seeks to curb the supply of Iranian drones to Russia so that it would also include the provision of missiles and could also cover deliveries to Iranian proxies in the Middle East.

Ever since Israel launched its offensive against the Palestinians in October, fighting has also erupted between Israel and Iran-aligned groups in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

Apart from a single week of ceasefire in November during which around half of the hostages taken by Hamas in October were freed, diplomats have so far failed to hammer out terms for a longer truce, much less an end to the war.

This month, Israel abruptly pulled most of its troops out of southern Gaza, the site of most of the heaviest fighting since the start of the year. Fighting in recent days has been focused in central Gaza, in the Nuseirat camp north of Deir Al-Balah, one of the few areas that Israeli troops have yet to storm.

At a hospital morgue in Deir Al-Balah, members of the Al-Nouri family screamed in sorrow and anger over bodies in body bags, several the size of small children, in video footage obtained by Reuters. The local authorities said that 11 people were killed in an Israeli strike on the family home on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, local media reported that Israeli forces had withdrawn from Beit Hanoun in the northern part of Gaza after a 36-hour raid there.

Western countries, including the US, which initially backed Israel’s campaign against the Palestinians, have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the high civilian death toll and have called for an immediate ceasefire. Israel, though, says that it will not end the fighting until Hamas is annihilated; the resistance movement says that it will not release its hostages without a truce that includes a clear plan for an end to the Israeli offensive, including the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from the enclave.

With the prospect of famine looming, the US and Israel claim that access for humanitarian aid for Gaza has improved dramatically. Aid agencies, however, insist that the supplies of food and medicine are still too paltry to stave off an even more serious humanitarian disaster.

READ: UN: More than 10,000 women killed in Gaza