Iran’s Retaliatory Strikes Have Begun (Updated)

Iran has launched a widely expected, but still unprecedented drone and missile barrage from its territory against targets in Israel.

byThe War Zone staff|
Iran photo
Torsten via Wikicommons/The War Zone


Iranian authorities have announced that they have launched a large number of missiles and drones from their territory at targets in Israel. Israeli officials subsequently confirmed their claim. The attack is in retaliation for an Israeli strike on a consular building right next to the Iranian Embassy in Syria's capital Damascus on April 1. The entire region has been on edge since then, as you can read more about in The War Zone's previous reporting here.

"The IRGC’s [Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps'] Aerospace Division launched tens of missiles and drones against certain targets inside [Israel]," an IRGC statement read according to Iran's state-run PressTV. The IRGC has dubbed their retaliation operation True Promise. The exact numbers of missiles and drones, and what types, are unknown. There are reports that as many as 100 drones may now be in flight.

Unconfirmed imagery is also beginning to emerge purportedly showing Iranian missiles and drones on their way toward Israel.

"Iran has launched a direct attack from Iranian soil towards the state of Israel. We are closely monitoring Iranian killer drones that are en route sent by Iran. This is a severe and dangerous escalation," Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in a statement. "Our defensive and offensive capabilities are at the highest level of readiness ahead of this large-scale attack from Iran. Together, with our partners, the Israel Defense Force is operating at full force to defend the state of Israel and the people of Israel."

Israel has convened an emergency meeting of its War Cabinet in response to Iran's actions.

Israeli authorities say that GPS coverage in certain areas of the country will be disrupted as part of its response to Iran's strikes. This is part of efforts to disrupt the guidance systems on the incoming weapons.

Exactly when any of these Iranian threats might reach Israel is unclear. The IDF has said that the drones would have to travel at least around 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers), which would take them hours. This distance also indicates that they were launched from well within Iran given that the shortest distance between that country and Israel is only around 600 miles (965 kilometers). Staging various launches of disparate weapons to arrive around the same time at their targets in Israel could very well be part of Iran's plan. This would help overwhelm Israel's extensive air defense network.

A number of countries in the region, including Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt, as well as Iran and Israel, have closed their airspaces to normal air traffic in response to the Iranian operation.

"Iran has begun an airborne attack against Israel. President Biden is being regularly updated on the situation by his national security team and will meet with them this afternoon at the White House. His team is in constant communication with Israeli officials as well as other partners and allies," Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the National Security Council at the White House, said in a statement. "This attack is likely to unfold over a number of hours. President Biden has been clear: our support for Israel’s security is ironclad. The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran."

The full scale and scope of Iran's strikes very much remain to be seen, as well as what responses might come from Israel and its partners, especially the United States in its aftermath. Regardless, this is an unprecedented situation that will have impacts throughout the region.

This is a rapidly developing situation and we will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.

Update 6:40 PM EST:

Iranian state media is now reporting that ballistic missiles, in addition to cruise missiles and drones, are being employed in the strikes on Israel. It remains unclear what specific types of weapons Iran has employed in these strikes. Iranian quasi-state media outlets have shared stock footage showing what look to be variants or derivatives of the Fateh-110 ballistic missile and Shahed-136 kamikaze drones as part of their coverage of the strikes.

There are unconfirmed reports that some Iranian missiles and/or drones are already being intercepted. There are similarly unconfirmed reports that Israel's foreign partners may be involved in these defensive operations. U.S. authorities had publicly pledged this past week to support Israel in its defense against any incoming threats from Iran and/or its regional proxies.

Israeli officials reportedly believe areas in the Golan Heights and an air base in the Negev Desert are among the primary targets of Iran's strikes, according to the New York Times. A separate report from ABC News says that Iran appears to only be targeting Israeli military sites.

Unconfirmed reports say that the U.S. government detected the initial launch of Iranian drones from its territory and passed details on to its Israeli counterparts, helping give them advance notice. How this was done is not clear, but the U.S. military has highly capable space-based early warning systems, especially the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) constellation. SBIRS is primarily designed to watch for ballistic missiles, but is reportedly sensitive enough to detect much smaller thermal signatures, as well.

Iran's Permanent Mission to the United Nations has also issued a statement citing Article 51 of that organization's charter, which recognizes the inherent right to self-defense of any country, in justifying its strikes on Israel. "The matter can be deemed concluded. However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe," the statement added.

However, Israeli authorities have already pledged a "clear and decisive" response to the Iranian strikes. There continue to be a variety of potential scenarios for how the situation may or may not escalate.

Update 6:55 PM EST:

The IDF has now publicly issued a notice instructing citizens in the Northern Golan Heights, the Nevatim area in the Negev, Dimona (where the country's main nuclear facility is situated), and the port city of Eilat to be prepared to enter bomb shelters. Air raid sirens are already reportedly beginning to sound across those areas.

Iranian media is reporting that Iranian strikes on Israel may come in multiple waves, with more still to come. Video footage has emerged claiming to show more recent launches from the Tehran area.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants in Lebanon have also now launched their own rocket attacks on areas in the Golan.

Update 7:00 PM EST:

Videos and pictures reportedly showing Israeli air defenses in action against incoming Iranian missiles and/or drones are now beginning to emerge. Some of the imagery is said to show intercepts occurring over or near Jerusalem.

Update 7:20 PM EST:

There are now reports that some Iranian drones and/or missiles have impacted in Israel's Negev Desert region. Israeli authorities are saying that, at least so far, there have been no casualties from Iran's drone and missile strikes.

Additional imagery footage of intercepts in the skies of Israel continues to emerge.

Jordanian forces are now reportedly among those that have shot down Iranian drones heading toward Israel.

Iran's Defense Minister Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani has issued a statement saying that any country that allows the use of its airspace for any retaliation strikes on Iran would face a decisive response.

There are also now unconfirmed reports of possible attacks on bases that host U.S. forces in Iraq, including Al Asad Air Base, as well as in Erbil, the capital of the country's semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north. Iran has reportedly held the United States also responsible for the April 1 strike in Damascus.

Update 7:45 PM EST:

We now have what looks to be our first imagery of Iranian missiles impacting in Israel.

Israeli authorities say they have intercepted 99% of the drones and missiles Iran has launched so far, according to a report from the country's N12 news outlet. They have also pledged a major response to the strikes.

The IRGC has put out another statement warning the United States against supporting any Israeli retaliation.

The governments of the United Kingdom and France have both issued statements condemning Iran's actions against Israel and warning about further instability in the region.

Update 8:00 PM EST:

There are unconfirmed reports that as many as seven Iranian ballistic missiles may have hit Nevatim Air Base in the Negev Desert.

ABC News has reported that Iran has launched 70 more cruise and ballistic, citing an anonymous U.S. government official. This would bring the total number of reported Iranian missiles fired at Israel to approximately 150. U.S. officials have previously said that Iranian forces could ultimately launch between 400 and 500 missiles and drones as part of their retaliatory operation.

Update 8:30 PM EST:

The IDF has issued a new statement saying that Iranian ballistic missiles have caused minor damage to an Israeli military base in the Negev. However, spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said that most of the ballistic missiles targeting that base were intercepted outside of Israeli airspace by Arrow-series interceptors. He also said that Israeli combat jets have shot down dozens of incoming drones and cruise missiles.

A video has also now emerged that may show an exoatmospheric intercept of an Iranian ballistic missile heading toward Israel.

A 10-year-old girl was injured during the strikes in the Negev, but reportedly as a result an interception rather than from an Iranian muntion actually hitting a target.

"In accordance with our ironclad commitment to Israel's security, U.S. forces in the region continue to shoot down Iranian-launched drones targeting Israel," a U.S. defense official also told The War Zone. "Our forces remain postured to provide additional defensive support and to protect U.S. forces operating in the region."

Given the volume of incoming Iranian threats, Israel's air and missile defense network will have to prioritize which ones to respond to, such as ones heading for major population centers or critical facilities. It is inevitable that some missiles and drones will get through, possibly even as a result of a deliberate decision to conserve resources to ensure adequate defenses around higher-priority targets.

U.S. President Joe Biden has concluded another meeting with his national security team on Iran's strikes on Israel. There are reports he is now expected to speak directly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about response options.

Israeli Minister of Defense Yaov Gallant has also spoken directly with his American counterpart, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, tonight.

CNN has reported, citing unnamed U.S. officials, that American forces in the region do not appear, so far, to have been directly targeted by Iran or its proxies.

Update 9:05 PM EST:

The IDF has now released video footage of combat jets during operations tonight in response to Iran's strikes, as well as personnel in a command post.

Additional video footage of Iran's ballistic missile strikes in the Negev, as well as what may be exoatmospheric intercepts of some of those weapons, has emerged.

The IDF Home Front Command has reportedly lifted its call for residents in areas of northern and southern Israel to remain near bomb shelters.

Israel's War Cabinet is set to meet later on Sunday to discuss response options to Iran's strikes, according to Axios' Barak Ravid.

Israeli authorities have also called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council over Iran's actions. Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, has already called for the organization to condemn the strikes.

There are now indications that reports of possible attacks in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region tonight may have been Iranian drones and/or missiles bound for Israel being intercepted.

Update 9:35 PM EST:

There are reports that a number of Iranian drones are still in the air heading toward targets in Israel.

The IDF is continuing to assess the situation.

British authorities are bolstering their country's military presence in the Middle East "in response to increased Iranian threats and the growing risk of escalation" in the region, according to a statement from the U.K. Ministry of Defense. "We have moved several additional Royal Air Force jets and air refuelling tankers to the region. ... these UK jets will intercept any airborne attacks within range of our existing missions, as required."

There continues to be a massive disruption in regional air traffic due to tonight's events.

Update 9:55 PM EST:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has now spoken directly with U.S. President Joe Biden about Iran's missile and drone strikes in a call that reportedly lasted around 25 minutes.

All eyes are turning to how Israel may respond. Though Iran's strikes so far look to have been largely unsuccessful in terms of damage and casualties caused, they are a clear demonstration of the country's ability and willingness to take action against Israel directly.

"As far as I know at the moment, the damage is very limited, thanks to the success of the defense systems we have and the U.S. interceptions above Iraq," Eyal Hulata, a senior international fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the first foreign visiting fellow at FDD headquarters, told The War Zone tonight. "I don't know of other countries involved in the interceptions, but it might be that friendly Arab countries participated with the US in their efforts."

"If it wasn't for that, there would probably be an enormous amount of civilian damage," Hulat continued. "I must admit that I am surprised, the volume they fired was huge, and the proximity to our major cities, especially Jerusalem, was dangerous. One must ask what they were thinking, to what extent they thought we were weak and that the US isn't really on our side – they are wrong in both and this must be proven publicly and clearly.

"As for Israel's response – too early to say," Hulat said. "I would argue that Israel must respond, but more importantly the international community must respond – Iran must be isolated, the ballistic missiles sanctions that were removed last year must be restored and a strategic coalition must be created in the Gulf to deter them from ever doing this again to us or to any other U.S. ally."


Official statement from President Biden:

Earlier today, Iran—and its proxies operating out of Yemen, Syria and Iraq—launched an unprecedented air attack against military facilities in Israel. I condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms.

At my direction, to support the defense of Israel, the U.S. military moved aircraft and ballistic missile defense destroyers to the region over the course of the past week. Thanks to these deployments and the extraordinary skill of our servicemembers, we helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles.

I’ve just spoken with Prime Minister Netanyahu to reaffirm America’s ironclad commitment to the security of Israel. I told him that Israel demonstrated a remarkable capacity to defend against and defeat even unprecedented attacks – sending a clear message to its foes that they cannot effectively threaten the security of Israel.

Tomorrow, I will convene my fellow G7 leaders to coordinate a united diplomatic response to Iran’s brazen attack. My team will engage with their counterparts across the region. And we will stay in close touch with Israel’s leaders. And while we have not seen attacks on our forces or facilities today, we will remain vigilant to all threats and will not hesitate to take all necessary action to protect our people.

Hezbollah says it launched a rocket barrage into the Golan Heights. This is not anything new, but an indication of additional proxy actions following the direct attack on Israeli territory by Iran.

The house is moving to potentially bring forward legislation to support Israel.


U.S. Navy warships were reportedly involved in the intercepts tonight. Destroyers were moved into position off Israel this week. This could have been the debut of the SM-3 midcourse intercept capability. This was precisely what they were designed to do. They could have augmented Israel's Arrow system to help tackle the surge threat, if those threats were inside the engagement envelope (they should have been) and deconflicted with Israel's integrated air defense system. Other U.S. ABM capabilities in the region could have been responsible too, but if ships in that position were involved in the defense of Israel, it may have included SM-3.

CNN reports 70 drones and three ballistic missiles intercepted by U.S. forces in the region.

Here is the statement on today's events from Secretary of Defense Austin:

At the direction of President Biden, U.S. forces in the Middle East on April 13 intercepted dozens of missiles and UAVs en route to Israel, launched from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Our forces remain postured to protect U.S. troops and partners in the region, provide further support for Israel’s defense, and enhance regional stability.

We condemn these reckless and unprecedented attacks by Iran and its proxies, and we call on Iran to immediately halt any further attacks, including from its proxy forces, and to deescalate tensions. We do not seek conflict with Iran, but we will not hesitate to act to protect our forces and support the defense of Israel.

I am grateful for the professionalism and the skill of the brave U.S. troops who took part in today’s actions and who continue to stand guard to prevent further conflict or escalation. I will continue to monitor the situation closely and to consult with our allies and partners.

Reports are emerging that Biden told Netanyahu that U.S. would not back a response. If this is true, this is major pressure now on Israel to deescalate and call this a win. This is what we posited was a possible outcome earlier in the day prior to the strikes, but Israel will Israel actually act in line with this is another question. The IDF would need the U.S. for a major campaign against Iran's nuclear program that aims to destroy not just degrade it.

  • 99% of threats were intercepted/did not reach Israeli territory. Combined figure of IDF, U.S., and allies' work.
  • 30 cruise missiles. Zero made it to Israeli territory. 25 intercepted by IAF fighters outside of Israeli airspace.
  • 120 ballistic missiles, just a 'few' struck Israel, with minimal infrastructure damage to Navatim Air Base in the Negev. Base is functioning as normal.
  • 130 drones were launched at Israel, none made it.
  • Other launches from Iraq and Yemen, but none hit Israel.
  • Israel claiming 99% effective collective air defense. An incredible number even if it is anywhere in the ballpark of reality.
  • No damage from Hezbollah barrage. Counterstrikes via the IAF hit positions in Lebanon.

Israel has posted a pictures of an F-15I Ra'am loaded with a common counter air load out for the type, with a mix of Python, Sidewinder and Sparrow air-to-air missiles. F-15s are an ideal fighter for setting up persistent forward screens against drones and cruise missile. I have been told the AIM-7s remain very useful against small targets at close range due to their SARH capability. You can read more about AIM-7s continued IAF service here.

Israel is reopening its airspace:

We have ended our updates to this story. You can find our continuing coverage of Iran's missile and drone strikes on Israel and their aftermath here.

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