Iran’s show of force has demonstrated that Israel is not invincible

Published April 24, 2024

The Israeli and Iranian direct military exchanges have left the Middle East in a state of suspense, as surrounding nations wait to see what will happen next.

The Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1, Iran’s retaliation and Israel’s counter-response, for now, have amounted to a show of force between the two foes rather than an opening gambit for a wider conflict.

The Iranian attack was very measured and limited in impact. It was telegraphed well in advance and aimed mainly at two airbases near Israel’s nuclear facilities. Only seven out of more than 300 Iranian drones and missiles hit their targets, causing little damage and minor injuries to a few dozen Israelis. The other 293 were shot down with instrumental assistance from American, British, French and Jordanian forces.

The aim of both sides was not to escalate their respective attacks into an all-out war, but to highlight their statuses. For years, the two nations have been engaged in a shadowy war of indirect conflicts that allow them to flex their power in the region and to international allies, but in a way that also acts as a deterrence and prevents a direct clash.

But this month’s exchanges have brought one benefit: the two countries learnt a great deal about each other’s capabilities, and the level of damage possible if they were to enter a wider conflict.



RELATED: How Iran covered up the damage from Israel’s strikes

New images shared with The Economist show how a swap helped calm a crisis

Published April 24, 2024

When iran and Israel exchanged drone and missile strikes earlier this month, the world was braced for a full-fledged war in the Middle East. In the end both sides, having violently made their point, let matters rest. New satellite images now show how Iran saved face and backed down: it simply swapped one destroyed air-defence radar for a fresh one.

On April 19th, in response to an Iranian barrage a few days earlier, Israeli jets are thought to have fired several air-launched ballistic missiles towards an air base not far from the Natanz nuclear complex south of Tehran. The site has been central to Iran’s nuclear programme since it was publicly exposed 22 years ago and is heavily defended with Iran’s Russian-made s-300 air-defence system.

Israeli missiles appear to have scored a direct hit. They struck a 30n6e2 “Tombstone” radar, which is designed to track incoming air and missile threats, allowing interceptor missiles to take them out, according to analysis by Chris Biggers, an imagery analyst who used to work for America’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. The rest of the battery had been moved away, presumably in case Israel were to strike again.



Related: Iran’s Khamenei thanks armed forces for attacking Israel as two nations tamp down broader conflict fears | 10 points

Published April 23, 2024

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has thanked the armed forces over the April 13 attack on Israel when Tehran launched a barrage of more than 300 missiles and drones in retaliation to an attack on its embassy compound in Damascus on April 1. While Israel reacted by sending drones and missiles a few days later, Iran has played down this retaliation, easing out fears of a broader conflict in the Middle East.

“How many missiles were launched and how many of them hit their target is not the primary question, what really matters is that Iran demonstrated its power during that operation,” Khamenei said. However, Israel continues to pound Gaza with missiles to root out the Hamas militants.


Explosions echoed over the Iranian city of Isfahan in what sources said was an Israeli attack. Tehran played down the incident and said it had no plans for retaliation – a response that appeared gauged towards averting region-wide war.

Most of the missiles and drones were shot down by Israel and its allies and the attack caused modest damage in Israel.

Iran did not confirm it as an Israeli attack while Tel Aviv also refused to take responsibility, tamping down fears that the Middle East crisis was turning into a broader war. “What happened last night was no attack,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said, adding, “As long as there is no new adventure on behalf of the Israeli regime against Iran’s interests, we will have no response.”

A US official, however, said that it was Israel that had retaliated to the April 13 attack when Iran launched a barrage of 300 missiles.

While Iran and Israel did not directly confronted each other, a blast at an Iraqi military base, Israeli attack on Gaza and intensified clashes in the West Bank have persisted this week, underlining the muted tensions that may continue.

Amid this, the US House of Representatives has approved an aid of $13 billion to Israel for it to bolster its air defences, triggering fears that the money would “translate into thousands of Palestinian casualties in the Gaza Strip”.

Israel has continued to pound Gaza and the fight in the West Bank has intensified. At least 14 people died after Israel conducted a 40-hour raid on a refugee camp in the northern West Bank.





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Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter
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