Iran launched 200 drones and missiles in a retaliatory attack on Israel. How we got here, and what happens next.

Air defense systems intercepted many projectiles; Biden condemns attacks

An anti-missile system operates after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel April 14, 2024. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
An anti-missile system operated after Iran launched drones and missiles toward Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)
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Iran sent over 300 drones and missiles hurtling toward Israel on Saturday, escalating tensions across an already fraught Middle East and causing the international community to scramble to formulate a response.

The attacks came in retaliation for the April 1 bombing of Iran's embassy in Syria. Iran said it now considers that matter "concluded," but also warned Israel and the U.S. against further reprisals. President Biden, meanwhile, condemned the attacks and said he would convene G7 leaders Sunday for "a united diplomatic response."

It was unclear how much damage the attacks caused. Many of the projectiles were intercepted by Israel's air defense system, with assistance from the U.S. and other allies.

U.S. and Israeli officials had been predicting a strike. Biden sought to dissuade Iran Friday with a simple one-word message to Tehran's leaders: "Don't."

That warning went unheeded Saturday. Here’s a look at how we got here, and what could happen next.

What’s happening?

Israel Defense Force spokesperson Daniel Hagari said Iran had launched more than 200 drones, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles towards Israel Saturday, according to The New York Times. Hagari said one girl had been injured.

The Iranian-run state news agency IRNA said Tehran had fired ballistic missiles at Israeli targets, the Associated Press reported.

President Biden cut his weekend visit to Delaware short, returning to the White House on Saturday to meet with his national security team and later speak with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a statement, Biden affirmed that the U.S. "commitment to Israel’s security against threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad."

Biden also said he had directed U.S. military resources to the region over the past week to support Israel's defense, and that as a result "we helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles."

The background

Tensions have long simmered and flared between Iran and Israel. Iran has been accused of providing funding and support to militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah to help facilitate attacks on Israel.

But Saturday's attack came less than two weeks after a suspected Israeli strike on the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Syria. The attack killed seven of Iran’s military advisers, including three senior commanders.

Although the attack took place outside Iran, it may as well have been a direct hit on the country. Diplomatic compounds, including embassies and consulates, are generally considered sovereign territory of the country they represent and are afforded certain protections. However, during times of war or conflict, diplomatic compounds may become targets for attacks by opposing forces. These attacks are usually condemned by the international community, and when they do occur in conflict zones, it often leads to diplomatic tensions — and potential repercussions.

Saturday's attack came amid the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel, although Iran does not take responsibility for aiding Hamas during its attack on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 Israelis.

On Friday, Biden had said he expected Iran to attack “sooner than later" and urged Tehran against it. The U.S. also took steps in recent days to protect Americans in Israel and prepare U.S. troops and warships in the region to defend Israel.

What Iran has said

Iran had blamed Israel and the U.S. for the April 1 attack and had been threatening retaliation.

On Saturday, Iran's mission to the United Nations said in a statement it considered these retaliatory attacks to be a conclusion in the matter of the April 1 embassy bombing. The statement, however, warned Israel that any future reprisals would be met by a "considerably more severe" response and that "the U.S. MUST STAY AWAY!"

Prior to the Saturday attack, Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard also seized an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz in another apparent sign of aggression by Iran.

What Israel has said

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his war cabinet Saturday night and spoke with President Biden.

Israel has not publicly taken responsibility for the April 1 embassy attack, though it has not denied carrying it out either.

How are other countries responding?

Many nations quickly came to Israel's defense.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he condemns the Iranian regime’s “reckless attack” against Israel. “These strikes risk inflaming tensions and destabilizing the region,” he stated. “Iran has once again demonstrated that it is intent on sowing chaos in its own backyard.”

German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock also “strongly” condemned the attack, which she said “could plunge an entire region into chaos.” She called for Iran and its proxies to “stop this immediately,” adding that “Israel offers our full solidarity at this time."

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said that “we are following events in the Middle East with the deepest concern,” adding that the country is in “permanent contact” with their embassies in the region, which will “remain open to support Spaniards in the area.”

Colombia's President Gustavo Petro called the unfolding events “predictable,” declaring it a “prelude to World War III,” when “humanity should rebuild its economy towards the rapid goal of decarbonization.”

What happens next?

International leaders will meet Sunday to coordinate a response.

The United Nations Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting at 4 p.m. E.T.

President Biden also said he would convene a meeting with the leaders of the G7 countries, which include France, Germany, Canada, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, to discuss a unified diplomatic response.