How Israel’s Conflicts Could Escalate

Since Iran’s large missile and drone attack on Israel last weekend, Israel’s allies have warned its leaders to avoid responding in a way that could provoke a regional war. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel appeared to rebuff those warnings on Wednesday, saying the country would “do everything necessary to defend itself.”

Here is a look at where Israel has been drawn into conflicts, some of which could escalate quickly:


Last Saturday, Iran launched its first direct attack on Israel. The attack itself caused little damage, as almost all the missiles and drones were intercepted by Israeli air defenses, supported by the United States, France, Britain and Jordan. But it took a clandestine war between the two nations that has gone on for decades to a different level.

Iranians on Monday expressing support for their government’s missile and drone attack on Israel over the weekend.Credit…Arash Khamooshi for The New York Times

Tehran was responding to a strike on April 1 in which seven officers overseeing Iran’s operations in the Middle East died in an attack on the Iranian Embassy complex in Damascus, Syria. Iran said Israeli warplanes had conducted the strike and vowed to retaliate for what it considered an unusually brazen attack.

Iranian officials have signaled in recent months that they want to avoid a war with Israel. Officials in Israel and the United States have said that Israel miscalculated with its embassy strike, thinking that Iran would not react strongly. That strike, they said, effectively broke the unwritten rules of engagement in the long confrontation between the two sides. Israel has signaled that it will respond, and Iranian leaders have warned that if it does so, Iran will react forcefully, with deadlier weapons than in the last strike.


Instead of attacking Israel directly, Iran typically goes after it through groups in the region that it supports, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, its most powerful proxy. On Wednesday, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for a cross-border drone and missile attack in northern Israel that the Israeli military said had injured 14 soldiers, six of them severely.

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