IDF on heightened alert as tensions rise between Israel and Iran following attack on Iranian consulate in Damascus

April 5, 2024 by No Comments

Tensions between Iran and Israel continue to rise following the strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) canceling leave for troops and Tehran vowing “revenge” for the attack. “We [have been] dealing with Iran since the 7th of October, and [on] every single front possible – Houthis in Yemen, militias in Iraq, militias in Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas… so, Israel is in full readiness for any scenario,” retired Brig. Gen. Amir Avivi told Digital. “It’s not the first time that they after an alleged Israeli attack.” “I think that our Ministry of Defense is taking this seriously,” Avivi stressed. “As the minister of defense said, OK, yes, we are more alert, more ready, but we are not doing anything dramatically different from what we were already doing anyway because of the war.” Israel has not yet taken credit for a missile strike that hit Tehran’s consulate in Damascus, Syria, on Monday, Mohammad Reza Zahedi. Reuters cited a Lebanese security source as the first to identify Israel as the responsible party, to which an Israeli military spokesperson responded, “We do not comment on reports in the foreign media.” However, the IDF has made several operational changes, such as canceling leave for any IDF personnel and calling up additional reservists to bolster the force’s air defense systems on Israel’s northern border, The Telegraph reported. Israel has also suffered widespread GPS disruptions on applications, with some users shown to be in Lebanon’s capital Beirut, which Israeli outlet Haaretz reported as deliberate attempts to confuse Israeli drone threats. IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari reiterated the multifaceted conflict Israel is fighting, saying, “We are in a multi-front war. We are looking not only at Hamas but all our enemies. We look at all fronts and all threats in order to be ready for any scenario.” Iran has tried to tie both Israel and the U.S. to the attack, but the U.S. has repeatedly stressed it had no involvement while seemingly confirming Israel was behind the attack. Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh told reporters to refer to the Israelis State Department spokesperson Matt Miller during a briefing on Wednesday reiterated that “we made very clear to the Iranians that we had no involvement in this strike, we didn’t know about it at the time, and we warned them not to use this attack as a pretext to attack U.S. facilities or personnel.” Iran vowed to take “revenge” for the attack, and on Thursday Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned his Israeli counterparts that they would receive a “slap in the face” for the “heinous” attack,” saying ahead of Quds day that Israel will face its demise and collapse, according to The Times of India. The repeated threats from Iran have led to concerns among U.S. military commanders that the Damascus strike could lead to attacks in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. suffered 150 such attacks in the months following Oct. 7, but those attacks decreased and then stopped altogether after three American troops were killed in January. Avivi noted that if Iran does decide to retaliate, it is more likely to occur through their various proxy militias, who carried out attacks against U.S. facilities and personnel in the region since Oct. 7. Additionally, the attack is more likely to hit diplomatic targets in other countries – Israeli embassies or consulates, similar to the target struck in Damascus. “Whether it’s drone attacks or an attack from Hezbollah or in Yemen or the militias in Syria and Iraq – if they feel they have operational capability, they might try to do something, not necessarily in Israel,” Avivi said. “This is also something that I’m sure they are taking into account: Iranians don’t rush. They consider things, seriously, for a long time.” “It doesn’t necessarily have to be something in Israel,” he explained. “They’ve done that in the past and tried to assassinate Israelis outside of Israeli embassies. They might utilize again, the militias, and not necessarily directly. I’m not sure how much Iran would like to really confront Israel directly. I’m not sure it’ll work in their favor.” Matt McInnis, a senior fellow at the Institute for the Study of War, told Digital that he saw “legitimate concern” about attacks. He raised concerns over how Iran uses diplomatic cover for its military operations, but noted that might change. “Iran has used its embassies and diplomatic personnel to run military, paramilitary and terrorist activities for decades, however, undermining international legal principles,” McInnis said. “Iranian ambassadors in the Middle East are often Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps leaders, for example,” he explained. “Iran is likely re-evaluating whether diplomatic protocols can continue to hide and protect IRGC operations in the region.” Part of that diplomatic cover includes trying to rally the United Nations to condemn Israel for the attack – despite the fact Israel has yet to take credit for it. Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, issued a statement condemning the attack on Iran’s “diplomatic premises,” reaffirming the principle of inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises and personnel. “He also reminds all parties to respect all their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, as applicable,” Dujarric said. “He also repeats his calls on all concerned to exercise utmost restraint and avoid further escalation,” Dujarric continued. “He cautions that any miscalculation could lead to escalation, with devastating consequences for civilians who are already seeing unprecedented suffering in Syria, Lebanon, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and the broader Middle East.” Russia put forward a motion before an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council that would have condemned the attack, but the U.S., Britain and France blocked the resolution. The trio of allies told the council that too many facts remain unclear, which prevented members from reaching a consensus. McInnis argued that any success Iran finds in drawing support and condemnation over the attack is “not likely to translate into much international support for Iranian action against Israel, the United States or anyone else they hold accountable for the strike.” “No major power wants further regional escalation,” McInnis said. “We still should be taking this opportunity to stress that Iran’s use of diplomatic facilities for coordinating military or terrorist operations is unacceptable.” Digital’s Greg Norman and Reuters contributed to this report.