May 22, 2024

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Biden pledges “firm” support for Israel amid fears of an Iranian attack

Biden pledges “firm” support for Israel amid fears of an Iranian attack
  • Written by Max Matza and Will Vernon
  • BBC News

President Joe Biden promised Israel “firm” US support amid fears that Tehran may launch retaliations for an attack that killed senior Iranian officials.

Biden warned that Iran was threatening to launch a “major attack” after Israel struck the Iranian consulate in Syria 10 days ago.

He added: “We will do everything in our power to protect Israel's security.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the Iranian leader said that the Israeli attack on Damascus was equivalent to an attack on Iran itself.

“When they attacked our consulate area, it was as if they attacked our territory,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech.

“The evil regime must be punished, and it will be punished.”

It is not yet clear what form any retaliatory attack would take.

Iran striking Israel directly would risk further escalation in the conflict, and analysts say Iran does not have the military capacity necessary for a major confrontation.

A likely alternative is an attack through an Iranian proxy such as Hezbollah, which frequently carries out smaller attacks on Israel from neighboring Lebanon.

An Iranian official warned on Sunday that Israeli embassies were “no longer safe,” hinting that the consulate building might be a potential target.

Experts also noted that Iran could target Israel with a cyberattack.

Thirteen people were killed in the April 1 attack on the Iranian consulate building, including senior Iranian military commanders.

US and Israeli forces in the area were placed on high alert in the days that followed.

Biden's statements came while speaking to reporters at the White House on Wednesday alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

“As I told Prime Minister Netanyahu, our commitment to Israel’s security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is strict — and let me say that again, tough,” Biden said.

His comments come one day after Biden, in an interview, called for a ceasefire in Gaza and said he did not agree with Netanyahu's war strategy.

“I think what he's doing is wrong. I don't agree with his approach,” he said in an interview with Univision that was recorded a week ago.

Video explanation,

Watch: Biden says Netanyahu is making a “mistake” in Gaza

It also comes nearly a week after a tense phone call between Biden and Mr. Netanyahu in the wake of Israel's killing of seven humanitarian aid workers in Gaza.

Biden has sharpened his rhetoric on Israel's behavior in the nearly six-month-old war sparked by the Hamas attack on October 7, and expressed his growing frustration with Netanyahu.

American officials are trying to send a message to the Iranians that despite the differences in opinion between Biden and Netanyahu, any attack on Israel will be met with an aggressive American response.

In an attempt to ease tensions, the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Iraq spoke with their Iranian counterparts this week, according to Axios.

The ministers were asked to convey a message from Biden's senior Middle East adviser, Brett McGurk, about the need to de-escalate.

According to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza, more than 33,000 people – mostly women and children – were killed in the Israeli incursion.

The conflict erupted after Hamas killed more than 1,200 people in Israel and took 253 hostage in its attack in October.