Thursday, May 23, 2024

Live Updates: Israel’s Urgent Plea for Sanctions on Iran Rocks UN Security Council

HomeWARLive Updates: Israel's Urgent Plea for Sanctions on Iran Rocks UN Security...

JERUSALEM — In a brazen and unprecedented strike, Iran unloaded its military fury directly onto Israeli cities before dawn on Sunday, pummeling the Jewish state with a massiveMmissile and drone blitz that inflicted the first Iranian attack on Israel’s territory.

The audacious move by the Islamic Republic marked a dramatic escalation in the decades-old conflict between the two archenemies, sending shudders across the tinderbox Middle East and fueling fears of all-out regional war.

As air raid sirens shattered the overnight calm, explosions thundered and streaks of light zipped across the night sky from Israeli interceptor missiles in scorching attempts to deny a swarm of over 300 incoming Iranian projectiles.

Despite Israel’s best defensive shields, the barrage still managed to slip several munitions through to wreak deadly havoc. At least three Israelis perished when a residential building took a direct hit in the coastal city of Rishon LeZion. Scenes of shattered glass, flattened homes, and residents frantically fleeing for shelter played out in harrowing videos shared across social media.

“This will be remembered as a night of fire, bloodshed, and Iranian tyranny,” lamented Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an emergency national address. “Yet again, the fist of violence and radicalism has struck the world’s only Jewish state from the racist dregs squeezed between Iraq and Afghanistan.”

A Massive Retaliation for Alleged Israeli Strike

The unprecedented Iranian strike clearly meant to be perceived as retaliation for what Tehran claimed was Israel’s “cowardly” airstrike on its consular compound in Damascus just weeks ago.

The April 1st tomahawk missile attack on the Iranian diplomatic mission is widely believed to have been carried out by Israel, although Jerusalem has not officially claimed responsibility. The strike killed over a dozen Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers and demolished the strategic compound.

“Iran’s massive retaliation on Israeli cities should surprise no one,” said Trita Parsi of the Quincy Institute. “When a nation’s diplomatic facilities and personnel are brazenly struck on foreign soil, that is a line that cannot be ignored without severe repercussions.”

While Israel frequently launches airstrikes against Iranian-backed militias in Syria, the hit on the diplomatic compound itself was seen by Tehran as an unacceptable escalation that demanded an aggressive response.

Preparations Limited But Did Not Prevent Casualties

Israeli officials claimed their advanced missile defense systems managed to intercept around 90% of the barrage unleashed by Iran, which included 101 ballistic missiles, 36 cruise missiles, and 185 drones in a massive coordinated strike.

However, Iron Dome batteries and other anti-air defenses could not deflect every incoming projectile. Beyond the deadly hit on the apartment building in Rishon LeZion, the Israeli military acknowledged several other structures were struck, including a university campus and an industrial area.

“Despite our defensive readiness, the Iranian assault still managed to grossly violate our territorial integrity and cause tragic harm to civilians,” bemoaned Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, chief of the Israeli Defense Forces. “This attack joins a growing list of egregious Iranian offenses that cannot go unanswered.”

UN Fears Escalating “Devastation”

In emergency meetings, the United Nations Security Council urged both sides to pull back from the brink, fearful the latest military exchange could spiral into wider conflagration.

“The Middle East is on the brink of a plunging into a devastating all-out war that the region and the world cannot afford,” warned UN Secretary General António Guterres. “Now is the critical time to defuse tensions, not escalate with further hostilities.”

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Yet calls for calm fell on seemingly deaf ears, with Israel vowing “punshing” retaliation and Iran issuing bellicose statements.

“Our retaliation represents our inherent right to self-defense, and if the Zionist enemy persists in its aggression, the response will be far more severe,” threatened Amir Saeid Iravani, Iran’s UN ambassador.

With a straight face, Iravani declared Iran “does not seek escalation” despite the barrage Tehran had just unleashed.

Israel swiftly rejected any notion of de-escalation, with its UN envoy Gilad Erdan demanding “all possible sanctions” be imposed on Iran to economically strangle the regime.

“Iran has proven again its terrorist bona fides and destabilizing ambitions,” Erdan thundered. “Only concerted international pressure can deter the mullah’s regime from causing greater chaos and conflict.”

Crisis Exacerbated by Gaza Powder Keg

The sudden Iranian hostilities dramatically compounded what was already a combustible situation in the Palestinian territories that risked plunging the entire region into broader war.

Just over six months ago, on October 7th, a coordinated barrage of rockets fired by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants rained down on southern Israel. The audacious assault killed over 1,100 Israeli civilians and took around 240 hostages in one of the most shocking attacks since the 2014 Gaza war.

Israel retaliated with withering bombardment of the Gaza Strip, wreaking destruction on the coastal enclave’s infrastructure while severely degrading Hamas’ offensive capabilities. However, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has only deepened in recent months amid the near-total blockade Israel has enforced.

Alarming reports of mass civilian casualties, critical shortages of food, water, and medical supplies, as well as the crumbling of essential services have sparked urgent calls from aid groups for Israel to ease the siege. The British government has been among the most vocal critics.

“The situation in Gaza is utterly unacceptable at this point,” admonished UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron. “We have had tough conversations with Israel’s leadership about immediately allowing more humanitarian aid to flow through their crossing points. Too many innocent Gazans are going hungry and being denied basic essentials.”

Despite the pressure, Israel has remained steadfast in its position that the blockade is necessary to deny Hamas any opportunity to rearm or replenish its ranks. Officials insist the siege will only end once all Israeli hostages are released and the militant group is thoroughly disarmed.

Outbreak of Broader Chaos?

While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has raged for decades, the sudden injection of a direct Iranian intervention has raised alarms about the potential for a far broader regional escalation that could destabilize the entire Middle East.

With allies and proxies of both Israel and Iran strewn across Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and the Gulf nations, there are fears the crisis could easily metastasize into a multi-front conflict.

“This dangerous escalation of hostilities between Israel and Iran threatens to become a tinderbox that ignites the whole region into chaos,” warned Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “We could be looking at a scenario where Iran’s proxies in Lebanon and Yemen join the battle, while Israeli partners like Saudi Arabia feel compelled to take action. That’s a recipe for catastrophe.”

Already, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia based in Lebanon has enthusiastically praised the strikes on Israel as a “heroic response” while warning of potential retaliation if Iran is further attacked.

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Hezbollah’s formidable rocket arsenal directly menacing northern Israeli cities has long been a paramount concern for the Israeli military. Any intervention by the militant group risks massively escalating the scope of hostilities.

The US swiftly and sternly condemned the Iranian barrage, reaffirming its “unwavering commitment” to Israel’s security. But it has not been alone in its stance.

Russia notably refused to assign any blame, instead calling for “all parties to pursue diplomatic channels to resolve their disputes peacefully.” China issued a similar plea for restraint, while declining to criticize Iran’s strikes.

Reactions from America’s Arab allies were more mixed, with nations like Saudi Arabia and Jordan backing Israel’s right to self-defense. However, Syria, Iraq and Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels all cheered the Islamic Republic’s retaliation.

The Risk of Wider War

Despite the heated rhetoric from all sides, military analysts still assess the current crisis as one of brinkmanship, where neither Israel nor Iran currently desires an all-out conflagration they know would be catastrophic.

Both have conspicuously refrained from any military actions that could be seen as unequivocally drawing the United States into direct involvement for now.

“The nightmare scenario is one side miscalculates and triggers an action-reaction cycle of violence that then drags in the plethora of competing militias and state armies dotting the region,” said Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “It only takes one stray rocket hitting an American base, or an Israeli strike inadvertently killing Iranian commanders for this thing to spiral completely out of control.”

For the moment, both Tehran and Jerusalem seem content to issue warnings and flex military muscle without taking that fateful step over the brink into total war. Iran’s foreign minister insisted the weekend’s strikes “concluded” its retaliation unless Israel pursued further aggression.

And while issuing bellicose statements about pursuing a “punishing” response to make Iran “pay a heavy price,” Israeli officials have not yet specified what new actions they are preparing.

High-Stakes Game of Escalation

The grave risks of regional chaos and superpower entanglement have many experts framing the current tensions as a high-stakes game of escalation, where each side tests the other’s resolve through provocative strikes.

“Neither side ultimately wants a full-blown conflict that could plunge the region into bottomless violence and instability,” assessed Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment. “But the essence of this escalation cycle is both sides probing to find the limits of what actions the other will tolerate before being forced into an overwhelming military response.”

Iran has already demonstrated a fearsome new capability and willingness to directly strike Israeli cities. Meanwhile, Israel has made clear it will view further provocations as grounds for a punishing air campaign unlike anything Tehran has endured since the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

When it comes to the Gaza situation, Israeli officials insist that crisis will now take a backseat as they contend with the acute danger posed by Iran’s provocations. Yet that very disregard for the hellish humanitarian conditions in Gaza threatens to pour fuel on one fire while another is raging.

“It would be an historic mistake if Gaza gets relegated to an afterthought at this crucial moment,” warned Sara Batshon, director of the Hope Relief Fund working in Gaza. “To think the Palestinians will sit idly by as the Syrian conflict literally engulfs Israeli cities is hopelessly naive – failed uprisings were born from far less tinder.”

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Ordinary Citizens Caught in Crossfire

As the powers-that-be in Tehran, Jerusalem, and Washington weigh their next high-stakes moves, the ordinary citizens caught in the crossfire can do little but brace for further turmoil and bloodshed.

In Israel, whose communities absorbed the first direct Iranian attack, the psychological trauma is only beginning to set in. The thunderous overnight bombardment and scenes of panicked families fleeing for cover, children crying in fear, left a scar that will be slow to heal.

“This was one of the worst nights of my life – an evening I’ll always remember with dread,” recounted Nisreen Katmor, 36, a mother of three young daughters in Ashkelon. “The explosions shook our whole apartment. My girls were screaming, clinging to me in our safe room, convinced we were all going to die. How does a parent reassure their children after something like that?”

Across Gaza, which continues to reel under the weight of deprivation and destruction from Israel’s near-constant aerial bombardment, desperation and despair continue their grim resurgence.

“The siege makes our existence here feel utterly useless – like we are slowly being crushed into nothing more than souls deprived of hope, dignity and the basic essentials of life,” lamented Karima al-Jamal, a 27-year-old mother of two sheltering amid the ruins of Gaza City. “For those of us trapped here, hell has already arrived.”

In Iran, celebrations of the regime’s show of force against its arch-nemesis could be seen across various cities. But even amid the choreographed fanfare, undercurrents of anxiety persisted over the potential repercussions and whether the leadership had unwittingly unleashed forces it cannot control.

“I want to cheer my nation’s courage, but I also fear the horrible ways this could blow back upon innocent Iranians like myself if wider war ignites,” confided Hamid Bayati, a 41-year-old hospital administrator in Tehran speaking in hushed tones. “Once the dogs of war are unleashed, no one can predict where their path leads or whose blood is finally shed.”

As rhetoric escalates among capitals and military forces across the Middle East brace for further confrontation, the pleas for calm from ordinary civilians appear increasingly drowned out.

On the streets of Riyadh, Baghdad, Beirut and beyond, the same dread prevails – that the long-simmering conflicts that have periodically convulsed the region for decades have now entered a new, unpredictable and uncontrollable phase of permanent crisis.

With ever more powerful arsenals amassing among state and non-state actors alike, the grim sense that the next broader war will be a saturation of raining missiles, rockets and drones that spare no one is becoming harder to dismiss as alarmist, even for veteran observers of the region’s endemic unrest.

“For too long, we’ve all watched this cauldron of tensions bubble and boil over periodically only to be lowered back to a simmer temporarily,” said Ruba Husari, a Beirut-based Middle East analyst. “But at a certain point, the flames can no longer be contained – and all it takes is one new spark to finally set the entire powder keg ablaze once and for all.”

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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