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Updated Apr 19, 2024, 6:50am EDT
Middle East
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Semafor Signals

US officials say Israel missile strikes Iran

Israel's military displays what they say is an Iranian ballistic missile which they retrieved from the Dead Sea after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel
REUTERS/Amir Cohen
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The News

U.S. officials said an Israeli missile struck Iran, according to several American news outlets, as Tehran and Israel appeared to downplay the attack.

Iranian state media said explosions were heard near the central Iranian city of Isfahan on Thursday, while Israel did not officially comment on the attack.

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The New York Times reported that two Israeli defense officials and three Iranian officials had confirmed the strike in what seemed to be the first Israeli response to Iran’s weekend aerial attack on Israel, itself a response to the killing of Iranian officials at Tehran’s Damascus consulate.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Iran downplays strikes in possible attempt to de-escalate

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Sources:  
Haaretz, Reuters

Tehran has so far downplayed the strikes, and an Iranian official told Reuters that they had no plans to respond to Israel. “We have not received any external attack, and the discussion leans more towards infiltration than attack,” the official said. Iran’s attempt to downplay the incident could be “an attempt to deescalate in order to rid Tehran of the need to retaliate,” Amos Harel, a military correspondent with Haaretz, wrote Friday. Israel’s strikes are a response to Iran’s continued funding of militia organizations that pose a threat to it, and “an attempt to rock the regional boat in order to reach new arrangements that will stop the multi-front fighting,” Harel argued. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be “playing with fire against Iran. This could still end very badly for everyone,” he wrote.

China facing tricky balance in Middle East

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Source:  
Nikkei Asia

China, which has developed relations with both Israel and Iran, is now caught in a strategic tight spot as its two allies head towards a possible war. But Beijing has taken a sharper tone against Israel in recent months over the conflict in Gaza, though it is possible that it will levy some pressure against Iran now in an attempt to protect its interests, one expert told Nikkei Asia. “China opts for neutrality to preserve relations with both Iran and Israel, prioritizing its own strategic interests,” Umud Shokri, a visiting fellow at George Mason University, said. Beijing’s wide-reaching economic interests in the region mean that it will ultimately attempt to de-escalate tensions, Shokri told the outlet. China “values its relations with Israel and seeks to avoid siding firmly with Iran,” he added, and so “may discreetly encourage Iran to exercise restraint.”


Israel strikes could reflect poorly on Biden

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Source:  
Sky News

Israel has repeatedly ignored the U.S. and other allies’ warnings against escalating the conflict in Gaza and now the wider Middle East following Iran’s weekend attack. U.S. President Joe Biden, who publicly discouraged Netanyahu from retaliating against Tehran, has potentially been exposed “to failure and weakness when his directive was simply ignored by Israel,” wrote Sky News U.S. correspondent Mark Stone.

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