WORLD

BREAKING: White House confirms Iran drone attacks towards Israel

Apr 13, 2024, 2:16 PM | Updated: 2:40 pm

Early phases of Iran's drone attack against Israel. (Photo: Getty Images)...

Early phases of Iran's drone attack against Israel. (Photo: Getty Images)

(Photo: Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (AP) — The White House says it will provide unspecified support for Israel’s defense against an ongoing airborne attack from Iran.

National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a Saturday statement that “Iran has begun an airborne attack against Israel.” She added: “The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran.”

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. The previous story is below.

Israeli aviation authorities say they are closing the country’s airspace to all flights as it braces for an Iranian drone attack.

The country’s airport authority said the closure would go into effect at 12:30 a.m. local time (5:30 p.m. EDT).

It said flights would be affected and advised travelers to check with their airlines for changes.

Iranian state television announced that Tehran had launched an attack toward Israel. Iraq’s state news agency quoted Transportation Minister Raqqa Saadawi as saying the country’s airspace was closed.

Iran has largely avoided directly attacking Israel, despite its targeted killings of nuclear scientists and sabotage campaigns on Iran’s atomic sites. Iran has targeted Israeli or Jewish-linked sites through proxy forces.

Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip has inflamed decade-old tensions in the Middle East, and any new attack threatens to escalate that conflict into a wider regional war.

Also Saturday, commandos from Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard rappelled from a helicopter onto an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the vessel.

Iran’s state-run IRNA said a special forces unit of the Guard’s navy carried out the attack on the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime.

Briefing reporters, Hagari said Israel is “prepared and ready” with defensive and offensive actions. He also said there was “tight” cooperation with the U.S. and other partners in the region.

The head of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Erik Kurilla, has been in Israel in recent days to coordinate with Israel about the Iranian threats.

Israel has a number of layers of air defense capable of intercepting everything from long-range missiles to UAV’s and short-range rockets. Hagari said Israel has an “excellent air defense system” but stressed it is not 100% effective and urged the public to listen to safety announcements.

President Joe Biden was set to convene a principals meeting of the National Security Council on Saturday to discuss the unfolding attack, the White House said. Biden cut short a weekend trip to his beach house in Delaware to return to the White House and monitor the situation.

For days, Iranian officials including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have threatened to “slap” Israel for its Syria strike.

Iran has largely avoided directly attacking Israel, despite its targeted killings of nuclear scientists and sabotage campaigns on Iran’s atomic sites. Iran has targeted Israeli or Jewish-linked sites through proxy forces.

Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip has inflamed decade-old tensions in the Middle East, and any new attack threatens to escalate that conflict into a wider regional war.

Also Saturday, commandos from Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard rappelled from a helicopter onto an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the vessel.

Iran’s state-run IRNA said a special forces unit of the Guard’s navy carried out the attack on the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime.

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BREAKING: White House confirms Iran drone attacks towards Israel