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Dhaka Tribune

Israel bombs Gaza as West sanctions Iran drones over attack

  • The US and the UK announced new sanctions against Iran's military drone program in response to its weekend attack against Israel
  • Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,970 people in Gaza, mostly women and children
Update : 18 Apr 2024, 10:31 PM

Israel launched more deadly strikes on besieged Gaza on Thursday as Western governments unveiled sweeping sanctions against Iran's military drone program in response to the country's unprecedented attack on its arch enemy Israel.

World powers have been watching nervously since Israel vowed to retaliate against Iran for the weekend assault, with fears soaring that escalating tit-for-tat attacks could push the region towards wider war.

Further stoking tensions, Iran warned on Thursday that if Israel struck Iranian atomic sites during its expected retaliation, Tehran would in turn target Israeli "nuclear facilities."

And more than six months into the bloodiest ever Gaza war, the Israeli army said it had bombed dozens of targets in the territory, as Qatar said efforts to broker a truce have stalled.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed to destroy Hamas over its October 7 resistance campaign that started the war, has stressed that Israel "reserves the right to protect itself" against Iran.

The Islamic republic last weekend carried out its first ever attack to directly target its regional foe but Israel, backed by its allies, intercepted most of the 300 missiles and drones, and suffered no deaths.

Iran's attack was retaliation for an April 1 air strike, widely blamed on Israel, which levelled its consulate in Damascus and killed seven Revolutionary Guards.

‘Middle East on a precipice’

The international community has urged de-escalation since Iran's attack, which came after months of violence involving Israel and Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

"The Middle East is on a precipice," UN chief Antonio Guterres warned on Thursday.

"One miscalculation, one miscommunication, one mistake, could lead to the unthinkable --- a full-scale regional conflict that would be devastating for all involved," he told the UN Security Council (UNSC).

The United States, Israel's top ally and military supplier, has made clear it won't join any Israeli attack on Iran, instead unveiling new sanctions on Thursday against the country's military drone program.

"We are holding Iran accountable," US President Joe Biden said, adding that he had discussed ramping up economic pressure on Tehran with other leaders at a G7 meeting in Capri, Italy.

The US sanctions target 16 people and two entities involved in producing the drones used in Iran's attack, as well as companies providing parts to the country's steel industry.

Washington added that the United Kingdom would impose sanctions on Iran's drone and missile program, which was also the target of promised sanctions announced by the European Union on Wednesday. Israel has yet to reveal how or when it will carry out its promised retaliation against Iran.

US broadcaster ABC News, citing three unnamed Israeli sources, reported that Israel had "prepared for and then aborted retaliatory strikes against Iran on at least two nights this past week."

Among the range of possible responses considered by Israel were an attack on Iranian proxies in the region or a cyberattack, the sources told ABC. A high-ranking Iranian general warned Israel against attacking Iran's nuclear sites.

If this did happen, then "the nuclear facilities of the regime will be targeted and operated upon with advanced weaponry," said Ahmad Haghtalab, the head of Iran's Nuclear Protection and Security Corps.

However, Tehran has also sought to calm tensions through indirect diplomatic channels with its other major adversary, the United States.

Israel has faced growing global opposition to the relentless war that has reduced vast areas of Gaza to rubble, while its 2.4 million people have suffered under an Israeli siege that has blocked most water, food, medicines and other vital supplies.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,970 people in Gaza, mostly women and children. according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

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