Hezbollah fires dozens of missiles at Israel

Hezbollah fired a barrage of 40 rockets from southern Lebanon at Israel, as the country braced for a major attack by Iran.

Some experts suggested the attack, which did not cause any injuries, was an attempt to deplete Israel’s supply of surface-to-air missiles before Tehran launches a larger strike in retaliation for last week’s air strike on its consulate in Damascus.

Videos online showed Israel’s Iron Dome defences kicking into action in the night skies above residents in northern Galilee.

An Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesman said it had intercepted “some” of the Katyusha missiles and that no injuries had been reported.

The Lebanese-based Iranian proxy group claimed it was targeting Israeli artillery positions.

Earlier today, air defences intercepted two Hezbollah bomb drones while several shells were fired from Lebanon without causing any casualties, according to the IDF.

“IDF forces opened fire to eliminate the threat in several areas of southern Lebanon,” he added.

Hezbollah has exchanged near-daily cross-border fire with Israel since its ally Hamas, the Palestinian group, massacred hundreds of Israeli civilians in the Oct 7 attack.

10:00 PM BST

That’s all for now

Thanks for following our live Middle East coverage, as Hezbollah launched a missile barrage against Israel ahead of an expected strike by Iran. This live blog is now closed.

09:54 PM BST

Flights to Iran cancelled ahead of expected strike

The last airline in western Europe flying to Tehran has cancelled its flights ahead of an expected Iranian strike on Israel.

Australian Airlines said it was suspending all flights from Vienna to Tehran until April 18, adding in a statement: ““The safety of our passengers and crews have highest priority.”

09:35 PM BST

US send military assets to Israel to protect from Iranian strike

The US is deploying extra military assets near Israel to protect it from a strike by Iran that could come as soon as this weekend.

Officials said they had implemented “force posture changes” and deployed “additional assets” to the region in light of threats by Tehran to strike Israeli territory in retaliation for an air strike on its consulate in Damascus last week.

On Friday, the Pentagon was said to have been expecting an attack in the next 48 hours, which raised the prospect of a direct conflict between Iran and Israel for the first time.

President Joe Biden on Friday said he expected Iran to attack Israel “sooner, rather than later” and warned Tehran not to proceed.

Read the full story here from Tony Diver and Nataliya Vasilyeva.

09:11 PM BST

Pictured: Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ intercepts Hezbollah missiles

Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from Lebanon towards Israel over the Israeli Lebanese border
Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from Lebanon towards Israel over the Israeli Lebanese border - REUTERS/Ayal Margolin

08:47 PM BST

Israeli army kills Hamas leader’s son in West Bank raid

Israeli forces shot dead the son of a Hamas West Bank leader in an early-morning raid on Friday, according to reports.

Muhammad Rasoul Daraghmeh was killed while travelling in his car in the West Bank city of Tubas where he is based, local media said.

Israeli forces shot dead the son of a Hamas West Bank leader in an early-morning raid on Friday, according to reports.

Muhammad Rasoul Daraghmeh was killed while travelling in his car in the West Bank city of Tubas where he is based, local media said.

Read the full story from Cameron Henderson here.

08:29 PM BST

Biden expects Iran attack ‘sooner rather than later’

Joe Biden has suggested he expects an imminent Iranian strike on Israel. “I don’t want to get into secure information but my expectation is sooner than later,” he told reporters.

08:16 PM BST

Biden: Iran will not succeed

Joe Biden, the US President, urged Iran not to launch an attack on Israel when speaking to reporters this evening. He added: “We are devoted to the defence of Israel, we will support Israel, we will help defend Israel, and Iran will not succeed.”

07:59 PM BST

Iron Dome is ‘not hermetic’, IDF admits

Israel has admitted that its “Iron Dome” defence system is “not hermetic” as anticipation builds for a potential air strike by Iran.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), urged the public to remain vigilant while insisting that it was “ready for attack”.

“If there are any changes, we will update [the public] immediately,” Mr Hagari said, adding that Israel’s air defences were “among the best in the world, but not hermetic.”

“We have been at war for the past six months, and we have dealt with all the existing threats. Our defense is ready, and knows how to handle each threat individually.,” he said,

“We are also ready for attack, with a variety of capabilities, to protect the citizens of Israel.”

07:26 PM BST

Hezbollah takes credit for missile strike on Israel

Hezollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese group, has taken credit for firing “dozens of Katyusha rockets” at Israel on Friday evening.

It claimed to be targeting “enemy artillery positions” in response to “the enemy’s attacks on... southern villages and civilian homes”. The attack is not believed to have caused any casualties.

07:23 PM BST

Iranian retaliation ‘will be calibrated to avoid escalation’

Iran has signalled that it will retaliate against a suspected Israeli air strike in a “calibrated” manner to to prevent a regional war breaking out, the Financial Times reports.

Tehran is unlikely to target Israeli diplomatic facilities in the region, an official briefed on key diplomatic talks said.

06:46 PM BST

Rockets, drones and shells fired from Lebanon

Israel intecepted “some” of the 40 missiles that were recently fired at its territory from Lebanon, as speculation grows about an Iranian attack.

An Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesman confirmed that a number of rockets, shells and drones had been fired from its northern neighbour this evening, where Hezbollah -- an Iranian proxy group -- is based.

He said: “The launching of about 40 rocket shells from Lebanese territory towards Israel was monitored, some of which were intercepted while the rest fell in open areas without causing any casualties.

“Earlier this evening, air defenses intercepted two Hezbollah bomb drones that infiltrated from the direction of Lebanon, where warnings were activated for fear of interception fragments falling.

“In addition, several shells were monitored from Lebanon towards the area of ​​the town of Ramot Naftali, without causing any casualties.

“IDF forces opened fire to eliminate the threat in several areas of southern Lebanon.”

06:37 PM BST

US ‘moving additional assets’ to Middle East

US defence officials have said they are “moving additional assets” to the Middle East to “bolster regional deterrence efforts and increase force protection for US forces”.

It has previously been reported that the USS Dwight Eisenhower aircraft carrier had headed north through the Red Sea towards Israel.

06:27 PM BST

Iron Dome intercepts missile barrage as Israel braces for Iran attack

Israel has intercepted a missile barrage of around 50 rockets that were fired from Lebanon as it braces for an attack from Iran.

Footage published on social media shows the rockets exploding in mid-air as they are caught by Israel’s “Iron Dome” defence system.

Commentators suggested the strike could be an attempt to wear down Israel’s air defences before launching a larger attack using more advanced missiles.

06:21 PM BST

Reports: US sends aircraft carrier to Israel

The US has reportedly sent the USS Dwight Eisenhower aircraft carrier towards Israel, seemingly in an attempt to deter Iran from launching an attack.

The warship would be able to intercept missiles and drones fired from Iran, Israeli media reports.

06:13 PM BST

Russia tests intercontinential ballistic missile

Russia launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from a test site in its southern Astrakhan Region.

Their detection over various regions of Iran prompted speculation on social media that Iran had launched a strike on Israel, until Moscow confirmed it was responsible.

“The combat crew of the Strategic Missile Forces successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile of a mobile ground-based missile system,” Russia’s defence ministry said.

“The results obtained confirm the high reliability of Russian missiles for ensuring strategic security of the Russian Federation. The launch objectives were completed in full.”

06:07 PM BST

Gallant meets with US General to discuss potential attack

Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defence minister, met with US Central Command Commander Gen. Erik Kurilla today to discuss preparations for a potential Iranian strike on Israel.

The two men spoke about “readiness for an Iranian attack against the State of Israel, which may lead to regional escalation,” according to a statement from Gallant’s office.

Following the meeting, Gallant said: “Our enemies think that they can pull apart Israel and the United States, but the opposite is true -- they are bringing us together and strengthening our ties. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder.”

06:00 PM BST

Rocket sirens sound near Lebanon border

Numerous rocket sirens are sounding in northern Israeli towns near the Lebanon border, The Times of Israel reports.

05:23 PM BST

Iran threat to Israel is ‘viable’ and ‘serious’: White House

A reportedly imminent attack by Iran on Israel is a real and viable threat, the White House said on Friday.

“I can’t speak to what the intelligence picture tells us in terms of the size, scale, scope of what that attack might look like, except to say that we’re taking this seriously,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

“We still deem the potential threat by Iran here to be real, to be viable.”

When pressed by reporters on why the US had not released more detailed intelligence as it did in the run up to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he said the White House was “comfortable” with the messaging it had put out but that it would not “sit back”.

“And that’s why we are working so intensively to make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself. And we have had conversations with others in the region too. Nobody’s sitting back and resting easy on this.

“It’s a serious threat. We’re taking it seriously and we believe that it’s best for those conversations to happen away from the public eye so that we can make sure Israel is as prepared as possible.”

05:14 PM BST

Iran warned the US to stay out of the conflict or risk being attacked: report

Iran reportedly sent a message to the Biden administration through several Arab countries earlier this week saying that if the US got involved in the fighting between Israel and Iran, American forces in the region would be attacked.

Three American officials told Axios, a US news website, that the Iranians believe Washington is responsible for the Israeli attack that killed a Iranian general in Damascus, despite US denials.

“The Iranian message was we will attack the forces that attack us, so don’t f*** with us and we won’t f*** with you,” one US official is quoted as saying.

They reportedly threatened to attack US bases in the region if Washington did not stay out of the conflict.

04:59 PM BST

German government sued over sending weapons to Israel

Human rights lawyers have filed a lawsuit against a German government decision to approve the export of 3,000 anti-tank weapons to Israel, the second case of its kind this month filed over Berlin’s support of Israel in its war in Gaza.

Last week, Berlin lawyers said they had filed an urgent appeal to halt exports of war weapons to Israel, citing reasons to believe they were being used in ways that could violate international humanitarian law in the Gaza Strip.

The latest case, brought by five Palestinians from Gaza, was supported by lawyers from the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in Berlin and Palestinian human rights organisations, ECCHR said in a statement.

04:45 PM BST

US ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with Israel, says Gallant

The US stands “shoulder to shoulder” with Israel in face of the threat from Iran, Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant said after talks with the US Central Command chief in Jerusalem.

“Our enemies think that they can pull apart Israel and the United States, but the opposite is true - they are bringing us together and strengthening our ties”, Mr Gallant said after he and Michael Kurilla discussed Iran’s threats of retaliation for a deadly air strike on its consulate in Syria.

“We stand shoulder to shoulder,” Mr Gallant said, adding: “We are prepared to defend ourselves on the ground and in the air, in close cooperation with our partners, and we will know how to respond.”

04:32 PM BST

Iran ‘is going to attack’, says US senator

US Senator Marco Rubio has said that Iran “is going to attack Israel” bar a last-minute development.

The Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee said that “the response and risk of escalation will depend on what and how they attack.”

Israel has approved a plan to attack Iran if it is fired upon directly from the Islamic Republic.

04:15 PM BST

Tell us about hostages ‘if you want to protect your families’, IDF warns civilians

The IDF has dropped leaflets in Rafah urging Palestinians to help locate Israeli hostages held by Hamas “if you want to protect your families”.

“If you want to protect your families and guarantee your future, do not hesitate to provide us with information about the hostages or those holding them,” the flyers, which included the names and photos of 35 hostages, read.

The leaflets, dropped on the Tel Sultan neighbourhood of Gaza’s southernmost city, included a phone number hotline for providing tip-offs.

The request for information comes after Israel announced earlier this week that it was withdrawing its troops from the rest of the Strip in preparation for invading Rafah.

Plans to launch an offensive in the region, where more than 1.5 million Palestinians are currently seeking refuge, have been widely condemned by Western leaders and the UN.

04:10 PM BST

Iran could attack ‘today with 100 drones and dozens of missiles’

Iran could launch a major attack on Israeli soil using more than 100 drones and dozens of missiles within hours, two US officials have warned.

Given its magnitude, the alleged strike on military targets would be challenging for Israel to defend itself against, the officials told CBS News, adding that it could take place today.

The officials said they hoped Iran would opt for a smaller-scale strike.

Intelligence sources previously suggested Iran would calibrate its retaliation to avoid provoking a US response, Politico reported.

Israel is preparing itself for a strike on either the south or the north of the country, a separate official told the Wall Street Journal, as both the US and France issued warnings to citizens and diplomats to avoid travelling in the region.

The country has been on a state of high alert ever since it allegedly bombed Iran’s Damascus embassy, killing seven Iranian officials including senior commander Mohammed Reza Zahedi.

04:00 PM BST

Pictured: Palestinians attend funeral of Hamas militant

An armed man participates in the funeral of Mohammad Rasol Daraghmah, a militant who was killed by Israeli forces in Tubas
An armed man participates in the funeral of Mohammad Rasol Daraghmah, a militant who was killed by Israeli forces in Tubas - Raneen Sawafta/Reuters

03:56 PM BST

India advises citizens against travelling to Israel or Iran

India has advised its citizens against travelling to either Iran or Israel until further notice due to the “prevailing situation in the region”, the Foreign Ministry said.

“All those who are currently residing in Iran or Israel are requested to get in touch with Indian Embassies there and register themselves,” the ministry posted on Twitter.

It added that Indians in the two countries should observe the “utmost precautions about their safety and restrict their movements to the minimum”.

03:28 PM BST

‘Atrocious dilemma’ if Palestinians flee to Egypt, warns UN refugee chief

The UN refugee chief has said “we must fervently do everything” to avoid the prospect of Palestinians flowing into Egypt from Rafah as it would make resolving the conflict “impossible”.

“Another refugee crisis from Gaza into Egypt, I can assure you … would make the resolution of the Palestinian refugee question as a consequence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible,” Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in Geneva.

His comments come amid threats from Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, that “no force in the world” will stop Israel’s invasion of Gaza’s southernmost city, where 1.4 million Palestinians are currently sheltering.

Mr Grandi conceded that crossing the border into Egypt may be “the only option for safety available” for many Palestinians should Israel invade, adding: “We must not arrive at that atrocious dilemma, which would be really almost the end of the road for what is really important here: ultimate peace.”

03:20 PM BST

Journalist loses foot in Israeli refugee camp strike

A journalist had his foot amputated after being wounded in an Israeli strike on the Nuseriat refugee camp in central Gaza.

Sami Shehadeh, a TRT reporter, was one of several journalist, and more than 70 people in total, injured during Israeli raids in the area which involved shelling, ground troops and drone strikes, Al Jazeera reported.

During a raid on a school nearby, Israeli troops uncovered several heavy live explosives hidden in a classroom and playground where Hamas gunmen were holed up, the IDF said.

According to the IDF, troops also located an observation post at the school that had been used by Hamas.

03:01 PM BST

Pictured: Warning to Israel over missile strike

The IDF has posted a reminder to Israelis on social media about safety instructions in case of missile attacks
The IDF has posted a reminder to Israelis on social media about safety instructions in case of missile attacks

02:48 PM BST

Israel opens new Gaza aid crossing

The first trucks transporting food aid via the newly built northern crossing travelled today into Gaza, the IDF reported.

The trucks were inspected at the Kerem Shalom crossing point on the border with Egypt before moving north to cross into the Strip, it added.

Israel announced earlier this month that it would not re-open the Erez crossing point into Gaza, which has been closed since the start of the war, for fear that protestors would block trucks carrying desperately needed aid into the war-torn region.

02:19 PM BST

Watch: Hamas leaders son killed in strike

02:14 PM BST

France tells citizens not to travel to Israel

France’s foreign ministry has advised French citizens against travelling to Iran, Lebanon, Israel, and the Palestinian territories amid Iran’s threats against its regional adversary.

In a statement on Twitter, the French foreign ministry said that relatives of Iran-based diplomats will return to France and that French civil servants are now banned from conducting any missions in Iran, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

01:55 PM BST

Pictured: Jordan anti-war protests

Demonstrators in Jordan carry flags and banners during a protest in support of Palestinians in Gaza
Demonstrators in Jordan carry flags and banners during a protest in support of Palestinians in Gaza - Reuters
Protestors hold placards stating: "We celebrate with victory"
Protestors hold placards stating: "We celebrate with victory" - Jehad Shelbak/Reuters

01:44 PM BST

Israel kills son of Hamas West Bank leader

Israeli forces have shot dead the son of a former Hamas West Bank leader in an early morning raid, the IDF has confirmed.

Muhammad Rasoul - the son of Omar Daraghmeh, a West Bank Hamas leader who died while imprisoned in Israel - was shot dead in his car during an early morning raid on the West Bank city of Tubas, local media reported.

Mr Rasoul, a “central” Hamas member in the West Bank city of Tubas, was shot dead after opening fire at Israeli troops from a car, the IDF said, adding that several firearms and other pieces of military equipment were seized from his vehicle.

Images of the incident posted by news agencies show a bullet-ridden car, allegedly belonging to Mr Rasoul.

The death of Mr Daraghmeh in October last year, days after he was imprisoned, triggered mass demonstrations in Tubas amid accusations of an Israeli assassination.

01:12 PM BST

29 dead after Israeli airstrike

At least 29 people have been killed in an Israeli strike on Gaza City’s Daraj neighbourhood, with dozens more wounded, Wafa, the Palestinian news agency, reported.

Footage of the aftermath of the attack posted by Al Jazeera Arabic shows rescuers carrying bodies from the rubble of a blown-out building.

Elsewhere in Gaza City, Israeli helicopters carried out strikes in the Zeitoun, Shujayea and Remal neighbourhoods, wounding multiple civilians, according to Wafa.

12:49 PM BST

Battle Lines: Will Israel strike Iran?

12:19 PM BST

Gaza death toll ‘reaches 33,634’

At least 33,634 people have been killed in Gaza during more than six months of war between Israel and Hamas, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry reported.

The toll includes at least 89 deaths over the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, adding that 76,214 people have been wounded in the Gaza Strip since the war began.

11:34 AM BST

Israel preparing for Iranian attack ‘within 24-48 hours’

Israel is preparing for a direct attack from Iran in the next 24 to 48 hours, a US intelligence source reported.

The country is readying itself for a possible strike on either southern or northern Israel, the source, who was not named, told the Wall Street Journal, as the US embassy placed travel restrictions on all government employees based in the country.

With the region on red alert, Iran is allegedly planning a larger-than-usual aerial attack featuring a mix of missiles and drone strikes, but it intends to limit its strike to avoid provoking a US response, a separate official told Politico.

Iran is “looking to calibrate it, so they essentially don’t overplay their hand”, the official said.

11:15 AM BST

Hamas police chief killed in Gaza airstrike

The head of Hamas’s internal security in Jabaliya, northern Gaza, was killed in an airstrike yesterday, the IDF and Shin Bet reported.

In addition to serving as a Hamas police chief in Jabaliya, Radwan Muhammad Abdullah Radwan was part of the militant group’s military wing, according to Israeli intelligence.

“Radwan gave orders to Hamas operatives and was responsible for directing armed terrorists to take control of humanitarian aid trucks in the northern Gaza Strip,” the IDF said in a statement. It added that his killing “degrades Hamas’s capabilities to attack and take control of humanitarian aid” in the Jabaliya area, the Times of Israel reported.

A separate Israeli strike yesterday killed Hamed Muhammad Ali Ahmed, a Hamas militant commander who was responsible for internal security in Jabaliya, as well as another operative in the terror group’s Jabaliya Battalion, the IDF said.

10:36 AM BST

Update: China pledges to ‘cool down’ tensions in Middle East

China has said it will “contribute to cooling down” rapidly escalating tensions in the Middle East after talks with the United States.

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, spoke to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi this week to urge Beijing to use its influence to dissuade Iran from striking Israel.

Beijing said that during the call, Mr Wang “expressed China’s strong condemnation of the attack” while emphasising the “inviolable” right to security of diplomatic institutions and the need to respect the sovereignty of Iran and Syria.

“China will continue to play a constructive role in the resolution of the Middle East issue... and contribute to cooling down the situation,” Mao Ning, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, added.

Beijing in turn has criticised the US as biased toward Israel, calling on Washington to “play a constructive role” in the resolution of the crisis.

“This round of escalation is the latest manifestation of the spillover from the Gaza conflict, and it is imperative that the Gaza conflict be put to rest as soon as possible,” Ms Mao said, adding Beijing was calling for an immediate ceasefire.

See post at 9.06am for more details.

10:16 AM BST

Pictured: West Bank Hamas leader’s son shot dead

Muhammad Rasoul Daraghmeh, the son of deceased West Bank Hamas leader Omar Daraghmeh, was shot dead in a car during an IDF West Bank raid
Muhammad Rasoul Daraghmeh, the son of deceased West Bank Hamas leader Omar Daraghmeh, was shot dead in a car during an IDF West Bank raid - Getty Images
Muhammad Rasoul Daraghmeh was a Al-Qassam Brigades commander, reports suggest
Muhammad Rasoul Daraghmeh was a Al-Qassam Brigades commander, reports suggest - Getty Images
His car was left riddled with bullets
His car was left riddled with bullets - Shutterstock

09:49 AM BST

US frustrated by lack of notice from Israel over Syria strike

Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, complained directly to his Israeli counterpart Yoav Galant that Israel should have warned the US before launching an airstrike on Iran’s consular in Damascus, three senior US officials reported.

The strike, which killed two senior member’s of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, has triggered threats of a retaliatory attack from Tehran on Israeli soil, leaving the region on red alert.

Mr Austin and other senior defence officials believed Israel should have informed the US ahead of time because of the strike’s implications for US troops and interests in the region, the three officials told the Washington Post. They added that forewarning would have enabled the Pentagon to position war ships in the area to protect both Israel and US troops from a potential Iranian response.

An official readout of the conversation released on April 3 did not disclose the Pentagon’s frustrations, saying only that Mr Austin “reiterated US support for Israel’s defense against a range of regional threats”.

09:26 AM BST

Israel kills former Hamas leader’s son in West Bank

Israeli forces have shot dead two Palestinians in an early morning raid in the West Bank, Wafa, the Palestinian news agency, reported.

One man was killed when Israeli soldiers opened fire on his vehicle in Tubas, while another was shot dead by Israeli gunfire when troops raided the nearby Al-Fara refugee camp, the agency said.

According to local reports, one of those killed was Muhammad Rasoul, the son of Omar Daraghmeh, a West Bank Hamas leader who died while imprisoned in Israel.

The area around Tubas in the northern West Bank is a stronghold of Palestinian armed groups and the frequent target of Israeli military incursions.

09:06 AM BST

White House urges China to reign in Iran

The US has asked China to urge Tehran not to attack Israel.

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, spoke to Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, this week amid mounting concern in Washington that Iran could launch an imminent retaliatory strike on Israel for its air strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria, the Financial Times reported.

“We have also engaged with European allies and partners over the past few days and urged them as well to send a clear message to Iran: that escalation is not in Iran’s interest, it’s not in the region’s interest and it’s not in the world’s interest,” said Matt Miller, a state department spokesman.

The Biden administration has repeatedly implored China in recent months to use its leverage with Tehran to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East, but US officials have privately said they have seen no evidence that Beijing has done anything to apply pressure.

08:45 AM BST

Iran has enough enriched uranium ‘for three nuclear bombs’

Iran has a supply of highly enriched uranium that could be converted to make the fuel for at least three nuclear bombs within a few weeks, current and former US officials reported.

After a decision is made by Tehran, making a crude nuclear device could take as little as six months, while building a nuclear warhead that could be fired by a missile would two years, the officials told the Washington Post.

Tehran has rapidly developed its nuclear capabilities since the US withdrew from a joint nuclear pact in 2018, enriching uranium at ever-faster speeds and nearly doubling its output at one of the country’s major plants.

“They are dancing right up to the edge,” a separate US official said.

08:27 AM BST

Pictured: Israelis call for hostage release

Israeli's protest for a deal and the release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza
Israeli's protest for a deal and the release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza - Hannah McKay/Reuters

08:10 AM BST

US embassy restricts travel for government employees in Israel

The US has restricted travel for its diplomats in Israel amid fears of an imminent Iranian attack.

The US embassy released a statement on its website prohibiting government employees and their families from personal travel outside of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Beersheba until further notice “out of an abundance of caution”.

Asked about the travel restrictions, Matthew Miller, a state department spokesman, declined to disclose the “specific assessments” behind them, adding: “Clearly we are monitoring the threat environment in the Middle East and specifically in Israel.”

08:00 AM BST

Iran ‘must not draw Middle East into wider conflict’, says Lord Cameron

Lord Cameron has urged his Iran to row back on its threats to launch a direct attack on Israeli soil in order to avoid a regional conflict.

“Today I made clear to Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian that Iran must not draw the Middle East into a wider conflict,” the Foreign Secretary wrote on Twitter.

“I am deeply concerned about the potential for miscalculation leading to further violence. Iran should instead work to de-escalate and prevent further attacks,” he added.

Tehran vowed to seek revenge on Israel for an attack on its embassy in Damascus last week that killed seven members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

The White House has warned that an Iranian retaliatory strike could be “imminent”.

07:53 AM BST

US pledges ‘full support’ to defend Israel against Iran attack

Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, has pledged Washington’s “full support” to defend Israel in the face of a Iranian retaliatory strike.

Mr Austin spoke yesterday with his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant to reaffirm “ironclad US support for Israel’s defence in the face of growing threats from Iran,” a Pentagon statement said.

“Secretary Austin assured Minister Gallant that Israel could count on full US support to defend Israel against Iranian attacks, which Tehran has publicly threatened,” the readout said.

07:46 AM BST

Pictured: Israel bombards Gaza City

Palestinians watch on as smoke billows into the air in the Firas market area of Gaza City amid Israeli bombardment
Palestinians watch on as smoke billows into the air in the Firas market area of Gaza City amid Israeli bombardment - AFP

07:43 AM BST

Netanyahu vows to ‘harm anyone’ attacking Israel as fears of Iran strike grow

Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday vowed to “harm” anyone who attacks Israel amid fears that Iran is poised to launch an unprecedented direct missile attack on its old enemy, write James Rothwell and Moataz Khalil.

The Israeli prime minister said “whoever harms us, we will harm them” after US intelligence officials warned that Tehran is preparing a strike that could plunge the Middle East into a new war.

Israeli jets carried out drills simulating a strike on Iran, local media reported, while Western and Arab diplomats scrambled to persuade the Islamic republic against military action.

Elite Iranian forces based in Syria have moved into civilian hotels in anticipation of Israeli blowback, security sources told The Telegraph.

Read the full report here. 

07:40 AM BST

How Israel and Iran went from ‘best friends’ to arch-enemies on the cusp of all-out war

When  Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini launched an Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979 and overthrew the country’s pro-Western leader, one of the first things he did was cut ties with Israel.

The two countries had been allies under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, back when the nascent state of Israel was keen to work with any non-Arab friends in the region.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Israel sent contractors and military advisers to Tehran and bought Iranian oil. The two countries were even involved in a joint weapons development programme that was kept under wraps for fear of angering Iran’s Arab allies.

But everything changed when Khomeini, a Shia cleric, seized power. He saw Israel as an American puppet crushing the rights of the Muslim Palestinians, and denied the country had a right to exist.

Read Nataliya’s full report here.

07:39 AM BST

All Iran’s options for an attack on Israel – and how Netanyahu could respond

Israel is braced for a potentially major escalation in its conflict with Iran after a US intelligence assessment warned that Tehran could order a strike on military and government targets inside the country in the coming days, writes James Rothwell.

Israeli ministers have vowed that if Tehran takes direct military action then they will respond with their own strikes on Iranian territory, opening the door to a full-scale regional war in the Middle East.

A US intelligence assessment revealed this week by Bloomberg states that Iran could be poised to launch high-precision strikes using ballistic missiles or drones on targets inside Israel. A source quoted in the report said it was a matter of “when, not if,” Iran strikes, though it is less clear whether Tehran would take direct action or rely on its proxy network.

Either way, the Bloomberg report suggests Iran is drawing up plans for attacks only on military and government sites in Israel, of which the most obvious would be the Kirya, the Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Read James’s full analysis here.

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