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The Latest | Netanyahu says Israel will decide how to respond as Iran warns against retaliation

By The Associated Press

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would decide whether and how to respond to Iran’s major air assault earlier this week, brushing off calls for restraint from close allies.

Israel has vowed to respond to Iran’s unprecedented attack, leaving the region bracing for further escalation after months of fighting in Gaza. Israel’s allies have been urging Israel to hold back on any response to the attack that could spiral.

The diplomatic pressure came as Iran’s president warned that even the “tiniest” invasion of its territory would bring a “massive and harsh” response.

Over the weekend, Iran launched hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel after an apparent Israeli strike killed two Iranian generals. Israel and Iran have waged a long shadow war, but the strike was Iran’s first direct military attack on Israel. Israel says it and its partners intercepted nearly all the missiles and drones.

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi warned Israel against any retaliation as he addressed an annual army parade, which was moved from its usual route and not broadcast live on state TV — possibly to avoid being targeted. In remarks carried by Iran’s official IRNA news agency, Raisi said the weekend attack was limited, and that if Iran had wanted to carry out a bigger attack, “nothing would remain from the Zionist regime.”

Regional tensions have increased since the start of the latest Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, when Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two militant groups backed by Iran, carried out a cross-border attack that killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others. Israel responded with an offensive in Gaza that has caused widespread devastation and killed more than 33,800 people, according to local health officials.


— Netanyahu brushes off calls for restraint as Iran warns against retaliation

— Lebanon says Israeli agents likely killed Hezbollah-linked currency exchanger

— EU leaders vow to impose tougher sanctions against Iran

— The G7 eyes targeted sanctions on Iran and a message of restraint

— US House’s Ukraine, Israel aid package gains Biden’s support. What’s inside the package?

Here is the latest:


UNITED NATIONS – The United States and 47 other countries issued a statement unequivocally condemning attacks on Israel by Iran “and its militant partners.”

The statement issued Wednesday night calls their “dangerous and destabilizing actions” an escalation “that poses a grave threat to international peace and security.”

The Iranian attack on Saturday marked the first time Tehran has launched a direct military assault on Israel. Israeli authorities said Iran lunched more than 300 drones and missiles, 99% of which were intercepted by air defenses in tandem with the U.S., Britain, France and Jordan.

The attack took place less than two weeks after a suspected Israeli strike in Syria killed two Iranian generals in an Iranian consulate building in Damascus.

The 48 mainly Western countries also condemned the fact that the ballistic and cruise missiles and attack drones “violated the airspace of several regional states, putting at risk the lives of innocent people in those countries, and appeared to traverse airspace near the holy sites in Jerusalem.”

The countries also condemned Iran’s seizure of a Portuguese-flagged commercial ship near the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday and called for the immediate release of the ship and its crew.

“We welcome the efforts to avert a further immediate escalation of violence in the region following the successful coordinated efforts to defend against Iran’s attack,” the statement said. “We call on all regional parties to take steps to avert further escalation of the situation.”


UNITED NATIONS – The head of the U.N. agency helping Palestinian refugees is accusing Israel of trying to end its operations in Gaza and the West Bank.

Philippe Lazzarini is urging the U.N. Security Council to safeguard his agency’s critical role as the relief agency for Palestinians.

Lazzarini told the council Wednesday that Israel has banned the agency from delivering aid to Gaza. International experts have warned that faminine is imminent in the northern part of the territory.

Since the war began, Lazzarini said, 178 personnel from the agency known as UNRWA have been killed. More than 160 of the agency’s premises, which were mostly used to shelter Palestinians, have been damaged or destroyed, killing more than 400 people.

“We demand an independent investigation and accountability for the blatant disregard for the protected status of humanitarian workers, operations, and facilities under international law,” UNRWA’s commissioner general said.

Israel has alleged that 12 of UNRWA’s thousands of workers participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that sparked the war. Lazzarini pledged to implement recommendations and strengthen safeguards to ensure UNRWA’s neutrality.


DOHA, Qatar — Qatar’s prime minister said Wednesday the country is reevaluating its role as a mediator between Israel and Hamas.

Qatar has been a key intermediary throughout the war in Gaza. It, along with the U.S. and Egypt, was instrumental in helping negotiate a brief halt to the fighting in November that led to the release of dozens of hostages.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdurrahman Al Thani said there had been an “abuse” of Qatar’s mediation for “narrow political interests.”

He did not name one side in his remarks. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized Qatar and recently threatened to shutter Qatar-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera.

Top Hamas leaders live in exile in Qatar, which is seen as one of the only parties with influence over the militant group.

Al Thani said there were “limits” to the role of mediator and “to the ability to which we can contribute to these negotiations in a constructive manner.”

Mediators have been trying to push Hamas and Israel toward a cease-fire deal, but the sides remain far apart on key terms.


UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is reiterating his call for “maximum restraint” between Israel and Iran.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Wednesday that rhetoric in the Middle East is becoming “increasingly dangerous.” Dujarric said the world and the region “cannot afford another open conflict.”

The comments follow the Israeli prime minister’s vow to respond to Tehran’s first direct attack against his country and the Iranian’s president’s warning of a massive response if Israel does.


UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to vote this week on a resolution that would give a green light for a Palestinian state to join the United Nations as a full member, a move opposed by the United States.

The vote was scheduled for Friday afternoon. But Arab nations are pressing for a vote Thursday, when the council is holding a ministerial meeting on the Palestinian Authority’s request for full U.N. membership.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered the application in 2011. That bid failed because the Palestinians did not get the required minimum support of nine of the Security Council’s 15 members.

In early April, after years of failed on-and-off peace talks, the Palestinians turned to the United Nations again to fulfill their dream of an independent state, sending a letter to the Security Council that was supported by 140 countries.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, had promised to veto any resolution endorsing Palestinian membership.

U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood reiterated the longstanding position last week: “The issue of full Palestinian membership is a decision that should be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Israel says such steps are an attempt to sidestep the negotiating process. Israel’s current right-wing government is dominated by hard-liners who oppose Palestinian statehood.


SDEROT, Israel — An Israeli military official says the air force is preparing for future attacks from Iran.

The official said Wednesday that the air force has been reviewing its successful defense against Iran’s missile attack over the weekend as it makes adjustments for potential additional fighting.

Israel has promised to respond against Iran, raising the possibility of a full-blown war, with Lebanon’s well-armed Hezbollah militant group almost certainly joining the fold.

Hezbollah, which has been locked in daily tit-for-tat fighting with Israel through the six-month Gaza war, is believed to have well over 100,000 rockets and missiles in its arsenal. Combined with Iran’s weapons, that could pose a major test for Israel’s air defense systems.

“We are preparing ourselves for the next time, debriefing the mission and seeing how could we prepare ourselves for the for the next attack,” said Brig. Gen. Doron Gavish, the former commander of Israel’s air defense who is now serving in reserves. He spoke to reporters at a military base in southern Israel.

Iran says its strike was a response to an alleged Israeli airstrike that killed two Iranian generals in Syria on April 1.

Israel says 99% of the more than 300 missiles and drones that Iran lauched were intercepted. It was assisted a coalition of international partners and the fact that Iran telegraphed its attack ahead of time.


JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said Wednesday that it arrested and killed militants in an operation in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun over the past week.

The announcement comes after Palestinians said troops conducted raids there and forced displaced people to leave their shelters.

The military said it was a “focused operation” meant to remove militants from a civilian area. It did not say how many people were killed or arrested.

It said it targeted two facilities used as schools after intelligence pointed to militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The military said forces told civilians to leave the building before raiding it.

Palestinians had reported heavy bombardment of Beit Hanoun. Witnesses said many people had been interrogated and some adults were detained and taken to unknown locations.

Palestinians have said the forces have left the town. The military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether the operation was over.

It was the latest in a series of Israeli raids in northern Gaza.


JERUSALEM — A drone and rocket attack by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah on a border town in Israel’s north wounded 14 soldiers, Israel’s military says.

Wednesday’s strike hit a community center in the town of Arab al-Aramshe where soldiers were sleeping, the military said. Six soldiers were seriously wounded, two were moderately wounded and six were lightly wounded.

Hezbollah has said it targeted a military facility on the border to avenge the killing of a number of its fighters, including a commander, in Israeli strikes the previous day.

The Israeli military said its fighter jets responded by striking the areas from where the projectiles were fired, without elaborating on the location. It also said its fighters struck other Hezbollah military compounds in Naqoura and Yarine in south Lebanon.

Israel’s rescue service Magen David Adom said earlier that at least 13 people were wounded, without disclosing their identities.

Hezbollah, which is sponsored by Iran, has exchanged fire with Israeli forces on a near-daily basis since the start of the war in Gaza.


Italy’s foreign minister says Rome would be willing to contribute troops to any possible U.N. peacekeeping force for Gaza, even though no such proposal is currently on the table and Israel has rejected the idea.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani suggested a U.N. force under Arab command could help provide security if Israel and the Palestinians make headway on an eventual two-state solution. He said the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon could be the model.

“If there is the solution and for a short time we need the presence of the United Nations under Arab control, we are ready for sending Italian soldiers,” Tajani said ahead of a Group of Seven foreign ministers meeting in Capri.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out a foreign peacekeeping force in Gaza after the war, saying only Israel is capable of keeping the territory demilitarized.


TEL AVIV, Israel — German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Wednesday expressed her country’s full solidarity with Israel in the face of Iran’s attack on the weekend.

She vowed consequences for Iran and said the European Union was working on imposing on further sanctions.

“We will not tolerate this. We stand in full solidarity with Israel,” she told reporters. “Iran and its proxies such as Hezbollah or the Houthis must not be allowed to add fuel to the fire.”

Baerbock called on Israel to exercise restraint in its reaction to Iran’s attack in order to avoid a further escalation of the conflict.

“Everyone must now act prudently and responsibly. I’m not talking about giving in. I’m talking about prudent restraint, which is nothing less than strength,” the German minister said. “Because Israel has already shown strength with its defensive victory at the weekend.”

The minister also called for the release of the Israeli hostages in Gaza and demanded more humanitarian aid for Gaza’s civilian population.


JERUSALEM — The Arrow 3 missile defense system, designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles, was deployed successfully against a missile salvo for the first time over the weekend to repel the Iranian attack on Israel, the system’s maker said Wednesday.

Speaking to The Associated Press, Boaz Levy, chief executive of state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, the primary builder of the Arrow system, said that the system has been “operational for decades,” but was used Saturday “for the very first time against ballistic missiles in a salvo scenario,” intercepting high-flying munitions inside and outside the atmosphere.

Of about 300 drones and missiles launched by Iran into Israeli airspace Saturday night, the military says that 99% were intercepted by Israel’s multilayered air defense system, wounding only one person — a young girl.

“There is no hermetic seal. no system can give you an hermetic seal. But we did succeed to have 99% of success,” said Levy.

The Arrow’s success Saturday night in defending Israel is likely to please Germany, which recently signed a contract with Israel and the United States to procure Arrow 3. When operational, the system could protect much of Europe from long-range ballistic missiles.


JERUSALEM — U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron says “it’s clear the Israelis are making a decision to act” against Iran, but he hopes it will do so “in a way that is smart as well as tough and also does as little as possible to escalate this conflict.”

Cameron landed in Israel on Wednesday for meetings with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials.

He said his main aim was to “focus back the eyes of the world back on the hostage situation” and urged Hamas to agree to a temporary cease-fire agreement.

Cameron told broadcasters that “the real need is to refocus back on Hamas, back on the hostages, back on getting the aid in, back on getting a pause in the conflict in Gaza.”

Cameron is due to travel from the Middle East to a meeting of Group of Seven foreign ministers in Italy. He said he wanted the group of wealthy industrialized nations to “show a united front” and impose coordinated sanctions on Iran in response to its “malign activity” in the region.

“They need to be given a clear and unequivocal message by the G7 and I hope that will happen at the weekend,” Cameron said.


JERUSALEM — Human Rights Watch says Israeli forces either took part in or failed to stop settler attacks on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank that displaced hundreds of people from several Bedouin communities last fall.

Settler violence surged after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that triggered the war in Gaza, leading to the complete uprooting of at least seven Palestinian Bedouin communities and displacement from several others, according to the New York-based rights group.

Settlers launched another wave of attacks late last week after a 14-year-old Israeli boy was killed in what Israeli authorities say was a militant attack. The United Nations’ human rights office on Tuesday called on Israeli security forces to “immediately end their active participation in and support for settler attacks on Palestinians.”

The Human Rights Watch report released Wednesday focused on the earlier rash of violence. The rights group says Israeli settlers assaulted Palestinians, stole their belongings and livestock and threatened to kill them if they did not leave permanently. The settlers also destroyed homes and schools.

The military didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.


TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s president has warned that the “tiniest invasion” by Israel would bring a “massive and harsh” response, as the region braces for potential Israeli retaliation after Iran’s attack over the weekend.

President Ebrahim Raisi spoke Wednesday at an annual army parade that was relocated to a barracks north of the capital, Tehran, from its usual venue on a highway in the city’s southern outskirts. Iranian authorities gave no explanation for its relocation, and state TV did not broadcast it live, as it has in previous years.

Iran launched hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel over the weekend in response to an apparent Israeli strike on Iran’s embassy compound in Syria on April 1 that killed 12 people, including two Iranian generals.

Israel, with help from the United States, the United Kingdom, neighboring Jordan and other nations, successfully intercepted nearly all the missiles and drones.

Israel has vowed to respond, without saying when or how, while its allies have urged all sides to avoid further escalation.

Raisi said Saturday’s attack was a limited one, and that if Iran had wanted to carry out a bigger attack, “nothing would remain from the Zionist regime.” His remarks were carried by the official IRNA news agency.


UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations is appealing for $2.8 billion to provide desperately needed aid to 3 million Palestinians, stressing that tackling looming famine in war-torn Gaza doesn’t only require food but sanitation, water and health facilities.

Andrea De Domenico, the head of the U.N. humanitarian office for Gaza and the West Bank, told reporters Tuesday that “massive operations” are required to restore those services and meet minimum standards — and this can’t be done during military operations.

He pointed to the destruction of hospitals, water and sanitation facilities, homes, roads and schools, adding that “there is not a single university that is standing in Gaza.” De Domenico said there are signs of Israel’s “good intention” to get humanitarian aid into Gaza, but the U.N. keeps pushing because it’s not enough. He pointed to Israeli denials and delays on U.N. requests for aid convoys to enter Gaza.

The U.N. humanitarian official called for a complete change of focus to recognize that preventing famine goes beyond providing flour for bread or pita and to recognize that “water, sanitation and health are fundamental to curb famine.”

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