The US and its allies believe major missile or drone strikes by Iran or its proxies against military and government targets in Israel are imminent in what would mark a significant widening of the six-month-old conflict, according to people familiar with the intelligence.

The potential assault, possibly using high-precision missiles, may happen in the coming days, the people said, requesting anonymity to discuss confidential matters. It is seen as more a matter of when, not if, one of the people said, based on assessments from US and Israeli intelligence.

The intelligence prompted US President Joe Biden to warn Iran off any aggression towards Israel in response to the bombing of the Iranian consulate in Syria that killed two Iranian generals on April 1.

“We also want to address the Iranian threat to launch a significant – they’re threatening to launch a significant attack in Israel,” Biden said at a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington.

“As I told Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, our commitment to Israel’s security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad. Let me say it again, ironclad: all we can to protect Israel’s security.”

Later, the US Middle East envoy Brett McGurk called the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Iraq to ask them to deliver a message to Iran urging it to de-escalate with Israel, which they did, said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the foreign ministers of the four Arab countries had spoken on the phone with their Iranian counterpart and discussed regional tensions. The White House declined to comment. McGurk’s calls were first reported by Axios.

It came after an Iranian news agency briefly stoked tensions further when it published a report on social media platform X saying airspace over Tehran had been closed for military drills as of midnight. The agency then removed the report and denied it had issued such news.

Germany’s Lufthansa earlier said after careful evaluation it had suspended flights to and from Tehran from April 6 until probably Thursday, April 11, “due to the current situation in the Middle East”.

Countries in the region and the US have been on high alert and preparing for a possible attack by Iran since the strike in Damascus.

“We are constantly monitoring the situation in the Middle East and are in close contact with the authorities. The safety of our guests and crew members is Lufthansa’s top priority,” a spokesperson for the company told Reuters.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said earlier that Israel “must be punished, and it shall be” for the attack on the diplomatic compound. He said the strike was tantamount to an attack on Iranian territory.

In an apparent response to Khamenei, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Israel would respond if Iran attacked Israel from its own soil.

Israel’s Western allies have been told Israeli government and military facilities may be targeted but civilian facilities are not expected to be, they said. US officials were helping Israel on planning and sharing intelligence assessments, the people said. Israel has told allies it is waiting for this attack to take place before launching another ground offensive against Hamas in Rafah in Gaza, though it’s not clear how soon that operation may begin.

US and Western intelligence indicates an attack from Iran and its proxies may not necessarily come from Israel’s north, where Tehran’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon is located, the people said.

Foreign diplomatic missions are preparing for the potential strikes, making contingency plans for evacuation amid requests from Israeli authorities about emergency supplies like generators and satellite phones, one of the people said, noting that they were not aware of any Western missions planning immediate evacuation.

While the US has pushed Israel for a ceasefire in Gaza, the Biden administration has also signalled it was prepared to back the country in the event of an attack by Iran or its proxies.

It’s not yet clear whether a potential attack by Iran and its proxies would turn the conflict into a broader, more prolonged war or remain contained, one of the people said. A direct Iranian strike on an Israeli city would be a first and intensify hostilities in a major way. Last week, Israel scrambled navigational signals over the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, preparing for a potential attack.

Israeli embassies have also been considered targets for potential attacks after the strike on Damascus last week, with several missions around the world shuttered.

Iran’s main proxy group is Hezbollah, which is based in southern Lebanon and has been trading fire with Israeli forces almost daily since the war in Gaza erupted in October. Since the start of the war, tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from northern Israel and southern Lebanon.

Source » smh