Israel decides to hit Iran back hard

TEL AVIV/GAZA  -  In an unsourced report, Channel 12 claims the war cabinet has made the decision to hit back “clearly and forcefully” against Iran for its missile and drone attack on Saturday night.

The response will be designed to send the message that Israel “will not allow an attack of that magnitude against it to pass without a reaction,” the report says. The response will also be designed to make plain that Israel will not allow the Iranians to “establish the equation” they have sought to assert in recent days.

This appears to be a reference to Iran’s warning that future Israeli strikes on Iranian territory, including its international diplomatic premises, will henceforth again be met by Iranian retaliatory strikes on Israel.

The report says Israel does not want its response to spark a regional war, or to shatter the coalition that helped it defend against Iran’s attack. It further says that Israel intends to coordinate its action with the US. The war cabinet is scheduled to meet again today, the report notes, and Home Front command regulations have not been changed, indicating that an Israeli attack is unlikely to take place today.

Also, Israel launched dozens of air strikes on Gaza overnight, Hamas said Monday, as the army said it will not be distracted from the war after Iran’s unprecedented attack heightened fears of wider conflict.

World powers have urged restraint after Iran late Saturday launched more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel, though the Israeli military has said the vast majority were intercepted.

Tehran’s first direct assault on Israel, in retaliation for a deadly strike in Damascus earlier this month, followed months of violence across the region involving Iranian proxies who say they act in support of Palestinians in the war-battered Gaza Strip.

“Even while under attack from Iran, we have not lost sight, not for one moment, of our critical mission in Gaza to rescue our hostages from the hands of Iran’s proxy Hamas,” Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said late Sunday.

As mediators eye a deal to halt the fighting, triggered by Hamas’s October 7 attack, fears grew over Israeli plans to send troops into Rafah, a far-southern city where the majority of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have taken refuge.

“Hamas is still holding our hostages in Gaza,” Hagari said of the roughly 130 people, including 34 presumed dead, who Israel says remain in the hands of Palestinian militants since the Hamas attack.

“We also have hostages in Rafah, and we will do everything we can to bring them back home,” the military spokesman told a briefing.

The army said it was “calling up approximately two reserve brigades for operational activities on the Gazan front”, about a week after withdrawing most ground troops from the territory.

The Hamas government media office said Israeli aircraft launched “dozens” of strikes overnight on central Gaza.

Rumours of a reopened Israeli checkpoint on the coastal road from the besieged territory’s south to Gaza City send thousands of Palestinians heading north on Sunday, despite Israel denying it was open.

An AFP journalist saw mothers holding their children’s hands and families piling onto donkey carts with their luggage as they made the journey.

Hoping to reunite with his wife who has been in the southern city of Khan Yunis, Palestinian man Mahmoud Awdeh said, “she told me over the phone that people are leaving... she’s waiting at the checkpoint until the army agrees to let her head to the north”.

The Israeli army however told AFP that reports the route was open were “not true”.

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