What Are Israel’s Options for Retaliating Against Iran’s Drone and Missile Strike?

Israel is vowing to retaliate against Iran for its weekend drone and missile attack, the first strike on the Jewish state from Iranian soil and which brought into the open a years-long shadow war. As the US and Europe urge restraint, Israel is weighing its choices.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the country will respond, but hasn’t given any details about how or when. His government says a failure to act would signal weakness and encourage further attacks by its arch-enemy.

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Here are some options:

A strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities

This would be among the riskiest and most aggressive of the choices, and could force Iran to lash out at Israel again, potentially triggering a regional war the US, Europe and Arab states are so keen to avoid.

Israel, which bombed an Iraqi reactor in 1981 and a Syrian atomic site in 2007, has long considered Iran’s nuclear program a threat to its existence. Most of Tehran’s nuclear facilities — which Iran says are for peaceful purposes but Israel says are for building bombs — are hidden deep underground, making them hard to reach. In the view of many strategists, Israel would require US help.

Mark Dubowitz, head of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a US research group with a hawkish view on Iran, disagrees and says Israel can do it alone. “They’ve been striking targets inside Iran for years,” he said.

Another target could be Iran’s Bonab Atomic Research Center, the closest site to Israel and 500 kilometers south of Azerbaijan, an Israeli ally. While it’s one of Iran’s less important nuclear facilities, hitting it would send a strong signal about Israel’s military capabilities.

Strikes or cyberattacks on military infrastructure in Iran

Israel could target Iranian military facilities or other important infrastructure within the Islamic Republic, either via a direct strike or a cyberattack. That would send a message of deterrence by hitting Iranian soil while minimizing casualties, according to Sima Shine, who formerly headed the Mossad intelligence agency’s research division. 

Israel has for years been blamed for cyberattacks on both civilian and military sites in Iran — as well as assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and other intelligence operations — but has never claimed responsibility.

Any missile or drone strike on Iranian soil, no matter the target, would be major for Israel. But it wouldn’t necessarily be the first attack in Iran by Israel. Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israeli forces destroyed a drone base in Iran in 2022 under his orders.

Hitting Iranian proxies in the Middle East

Israel could also choose to strike some of Iran’s proxy militias such as Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Houthis in Yemen. There are also groups in Iraq and Syria. These are funded by Tehran and target Israel on its behalf.

Israel has exchanged daily fire with Hezbollah since the war against Hamas began in Gaza in October. And it’s fended off missiles and drones from the Houthis, who have also attacked Israeli-linked ships around the Red Sea. Still, the fighting has been kept below the threshold of all-out war.

In addition, Iran has its own military personnel embedded with those groups, many of them belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Israel could choose to target them specifically, as Iran said it did on April 1 when two IRGC generals were killed by a strike on Tehran’s embassy compound in Damascus. Iran said its attack on Israel over the weekend was a legitimate response to that incident.

Focus on Gaza 

Some urge Israel to focus on its six-month-old war in Gaza and destroying Hamas, including in the city of Rafah where the Israeli government says around 8,000 of the group’s fighters are lodged.

Defeating Hamas, which receives training and funding from Iran, would mark a victory for Israel against Iran, said Yossi Kuperwasser, a former research head of military intelligence. “This entire war, from day one, is a war against Iran,” he said. “We have to finish the job in Gaza in order to cause much damage to the Iranian axis.”

With assistance from Nick Wadhams and Jonathan Tirone.

This article was generated from an automated news agency feed without modifications to text.

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