Biden cuts trip short as Iran launches drones and missiles towards Israel

Biden cuts trip short as Iran launches drones and missiles towards Israel
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President Joe Biden cut a weekend trip short and returned to the White House as reports indicate Iran launched dozens of drones towards Israel set to arrive in a matter of hours.

Mr Biden was set to spend the weekend in his home state of Delaware but is now returning to Washington, DC on Saturday afternoon to meet with his national security team.

Instead, his departure was announced just hours before the IDF detected Iran’s attacks. He returned to Washington by helicopter at 4.34 pm Eastern Time.

A White House official said Mr Biden subsequently met with a coterie of advisers in the White House Situation Room,including Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Charles Q. Brown, Director Bill Burns, Director Avril Haines, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer, Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall, Counselor to the President Steve Ricchetti and National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk.

Vice President Kamala Harris and White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients also joined the meeting by secure video link.

President Joe Biden meets with member of the National Security team regarding the unfolding missile attacks on Israel from Iran, Saturday, April 13, 2024, in the White House Situation Room. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz) (The White House)
President Joe Biden meets with member of the National Security team regarding the unfolding missile attacks on Israel from Iran, Saturday, April 13, 2024, in the White House Situation Room. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz) (The White House)

Meanwhile, the US has pledged to help protect Israel, with American and British warplanes reportedly shooting down Iranian drones that were on the way into Israeli airspace.

President Joe Biden, pictured arriving at the White House on 13 April 2024, cut his trip to Delaware short (AFP via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden, pictured arriving at the White House on 13 April 2024, cut his trip to Delaware short (AFP via Getty Images)

“Iran has begun an airborne attack against Israel,” National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson said on Saturday. “President Biden is being regularly updated on the situation by his national security team and will meet with them this afternoon at the White House.”

“President Biden has been clear: our support for Israel’s security is ironclad,” Ms Watson continued. “The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran.”

The reported drone launch comes after a suspected Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria on 1 April. The strike killed 12 people. Such an attack could further heighten tensions and violence in the area. Just hours before their airstrike, Iran also captured an Israel-linked cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz, further indicating an attack was imminent.

“Our defensive systems are deployed; we are ready for any scenario, both defensively and offensively,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday evening.

“We have determined a clear principle: Whoever harms us, we will harm them,” Mr Netanyahu continued. “We will defend ourselves against any threat and will do so level-headedly and with determination.”

Mr Netanyahu said the IDF is ready for ‘any scenario’ after Iran launched airstrikes against Israel (IDF)
Mr Netanyahu said the IDF is ready for ‘any scenario’ after Iran launched airstrikes against Israel (IDF)

Already, the region faces Israel’s continued offensive in Gaza and the consistent fire exchanged between the IDF and Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militant group, along the Israel-Lebanon border. American tensions with Iran also came to a head earlier this year when the US military struck Iran-backed militants and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Iraq and Syria. The attacks came in retaliation for a drone strike that killed three American troops in Jordan.

On Friday evening, the president said his administration expects Iran to launch an attack against Israel “sooner rather than later.” He also warned Tehran against launching the attack.

“We are devoted to the defence of Israel,” Mr Biden told reporters. “We will support Israel. We will help defend Israel and Iran will not succeed.”

Meanwhile, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said he spoke with an Israeli defence official on Saturday morning.

“This morning, I spoke with my Israeli counterpart, National Security Advisor Hanegbi, to discuss events in the Middle East,” Mr Sullivan said on X. “During the call, I reiterated the United States’ ironclad commitment to the security of Israel.”

Just hours before Iran launched their attack, IDF has issued an alert pausing all “educational activities” and limiting gatherings throughout most of the country to 1,000 people.

In the last six months, Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has killed more than 33,400 people, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza. The attacks come in response to 7 October, when Hamas launched a surprise attack against Israel, killing some 1,200 people and taking more than 200 people hostage.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson urged the US to continue supporting Israel, while condeming the Biden administration.

“The Biden Administration’s undermining of Israel and appeasement of Iran have contributed to these terrible developments,” Mr Johnson said in a statement on Saturday evening.

President Joe Biden, pictured boarding Air Force One to Delaware on Friday, will now return to Washington, DC to consult with his national security team (AFP via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden, pictured boarding Air Force One to Delaware on Friday, will now return to Washington, DC to consult with his national security team (AFP via Getty Images)

Tensions between Mr Netanyahu and Mr Biden have been on the rise in recent weeks.

This week, the president called for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza to allow humanitarian aid to reach Palestinians. However, he still appears poised to make an $18bn sale of fighter jets to Israel — a deal which the administration says has been in the making for years.

The Independent also exclusively reported this week that eight internal dissent memos were sent by US State Department staff during the first two months of the Gaza war, highlighting the widespread opposition within the department to the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s war in Gaza.

Earlier this month, the IDF also killed seven humanitarian aid workers with World Central Kitchen, a non-profit founded by celebrity chef José Andrés. One of those killed included a dual American-Canadian citizen. The non-profit said the IDF also “gravely injured” an eighth aid worker the same day in a separate strike. The Israeli government called the 1 April killings a mistake.