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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

As diplomats visit, Israel signals it will answer Iran’s attack

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting in Israel with President Joe Biden about the war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Oct. 18, 2023. Netanyahu emerged from talks Wednesday resolute that his country would not bow to any outside pressure when choosing its response to Iran’s barrage of missiles and drones last weekend. (Kenny Holston/The New York Times)

By Matthew Mpoke Bigg

For days, Israel’s closest Western allies have pleaded with the country’s wartime government not to risk igniting a wider war by responding too strongly to Iran’s barrage of missiles and drones last weekend. And on Wednesday, the top diplomats from Germany and Britain delivered that message in person to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in Jerusalem.

But Netanyahu emerged from those talks resolute that his country would not bow to any outside pressure when choosing its response. He declared before a Cabinet meeting that Israel would “do everything necessary to defend itself” and warned the allies that “we will make our own decisions,” according to his office.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron acknowledged just before meeting with the prime minister that Israel was unlikely to heed pleas to turn the other cheek.

“It is clear that the Israelis are making a decision to act,” Cameron told the BBC. “We hope that they do so in a way that does as little to escalate this as possible.”

The United States, Britain and Germany have been urging Israel to avoid making moves that could increase tension with Iran, which launched around 300 missiles and drones Saturday night in what was believed to be its first direct attack on Israel. Most of the missiles and drones were shot down before they reached their targets — thanks in part to the assistance of the United States, Britain, France and Jordan — and the ones that got through did minimal damage.

Netanyahu thanked Israel’s allies for their “support in words and support in actions” in remarks before a Cabinet meeting, according to his office. But he added: “They also have all kinds of suggestions and advice. I appreciate it, but I want to make it clear — we will make our own decisions.”

Iran warned that it would react forcefully to any Israeli aggression, with the army’s commander in chief, Maj. Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi, saying Wednesday: “We will respond with more deadly weapons.”

Israel’s war Cabinet has met several times since the weekend with no apparent decision on when and how to strike back against the attack. Officials are said to be considering a range of options, from a direct strike on Iran to a cyberattack or targeted assassinations, trying to send a clear message to Iran while not sparking a major escalation.

“Israel will respond when it sees fit,” an Israeli official said Wednesday, adding that it had “multiple ways” to do so. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Cameron said that the Group of 7 nations, which includes the United States as well as Britain and Germany, should work together to penalize Iran with sanctions. U.S. and European officials said separately Tuesday that they were considering placing additional sanctions on Iran that could target its oil revenue and weapons programs.

Before the meetings Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Iran’s actions had “led an entire region to the brink of the abyss.”

“The aim now is to stop Iran without further escalation,” she said in a post on social media Tuesday. “Iran’s plan to sow further violence must not work.”

Both ministers said they were also visiting to press for a humanitarian cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and call attention to the continued captivity of the hostages held there. Iran’s attack has shifted international focus away from the six-month conflict.

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