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US, Israeli defence chiefs discuss 'efforts to maintain regional stability'

April 20, 2024 at 2:14 pm

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (L) and his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant (R) pose for a photo ahead of their joint press conference in Tel Aviv, Israel on December 18, 2023. [Israel MOD/Ariel Hermoni – Anadolu Agency]

US and Israeli defence chiefs “discussed efforts to maintain regional stability” during a phone call on Friday, said a Pentagon spokesman, a day after the reports of an Israeli strike in Iran, Anadolu Agency reports.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin “spoke with Israeli Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant today to discuss efforts to maintain regional stability, the latest developments in Gaza, and measures to accelerate humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza,” said Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder in a statement.

US media reported that Israel carried out a “limited strike” inside Iran early Friday morning. There have been no official comments from Israel yet.

Iranian authorities also downplayed the reports, and said the sound of explosions heard in the city of Isfahan was the result of Iranian air defence systems firing at “suspicious objects”

Tension escalated between Iran and Israel on Saturday after Tehran launched an unprecedented drone and missile attack on Israel in response to the April 1 attack on its consulate in Syria, which killed seven Iranian military officers, including two top-ranking commanders. Israel had vowed to retaliate.

READ: Israeli newspaper presents new account of Iran’s attack on Israel

The defence chiefs have constantly held phone calls after the Israeli offensive on Gaza since the 7 October cross-border attack by the Palestinian group Hamas in which some 1,200 people were killed.

More than 34,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have since been killed in Gaza, and over 76,800 others have been injured amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities.

The Israeli war has pushed 85 per cent of Gaza’s population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water, and medicine, while 60 per cent of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

On Israeli plans to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than 1.5 million people have taken refuge from Israel’s ongoing war, US reiterates that it is “very clear” not to support “a major operation” in the city.

READ: No damage in Iran after alleged Israel attack