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Star Wars and sirens

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Where were you when Iran attacked Israel? This will become a question that Jews will ask themselves for years to come. Saturday evening, 13 April, began with a calm directive from the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command that the country was on an emergency footing and restrictions were in place. We knew what was coming. Like many around the country, I prepared my safe room, closed the metal window shield, and waited for what was to come. Drones were reportedly making their way to Israel. What happened next was unprecedented, both in scope of attack and Israel’s defence.

For the first time in history, Iran attacked from Iranian soil towards Israeli sovereign territory. The attack came in five waves, with more than 300 projectiles fired, designed for maximum carnage. This was a significant departure from previous decades-long strategy to attack Israel and Israeli installations around the world via proxies like the Houthis in Yemen, who are disrupting shipping lines, Hamas, and Hezbollah, which routinely attack Israel. Iran said that this was retaliation for an alleged Israeli strike on a building adjacent to its embassy in Damascus that eliminated Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Commander Mohammad Reza Zahedi and several others.

“The numbers still aren’t 100% clear, but I understand that 120 ballistic missiles and about 30 cruise missiles were fired, as well as about 170 explosive drones – explosive UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles],” Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner told CNN.

Israel’s defence was exceptional. Even though the steady thunder of fighter jets as they intercepted ballistic missiles kept most of us up, it was a reassuring sound to hear the mighty Israel Air Force along with the Royal Air Force (RAF) flying manoeuvres quite literally above me. I was treated the next morning to seeing two jets flying tandem with a large plane that was likely a refuelling plane.

Israel, along with an international coalition that included the United States (US), United Kingdom, France, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia demolished the Iranian attack. You read that correctly. Jordan opened its airspace, and scrambled F-16s to destroy incoming projectiles. The Jordanians said it was to “protect their civilians”, but two things are evident, first, the threat that Iran poses not just to Israel but to the region, and second, that in spite of harsh criticism over the past six months, our peace treaty is holding. A Saudi official connected to the Saudi Royal family told KAN, Israel’s national broadcaster, that the country had a system automatically to intercept any suspicious entity in its airspace.

That source also charged that Iran had instigated the Gaza war through its proxy group, Hamas, to disrupt US efforts for a Saudi normalisation deal. “Iran is a country that sponsors terrorism, and it should have been stopped a long time ago,” said the source.

Israel’s air defence array including Iron Domes, David’s Sling, Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 systems that are designed to destroy ballistic missiles in space, and exceptional flying by our fighter pilots along with the RAF. Sirens wailed in parts of the north and south and over Jerusalem. The images of Iron Dome defence missiles intercepting incoming projectiles over the Al-Aqsa Mosque will live in infamy. The visuals were like something out of a Star Wars movie.

US Central Command forces, supported by US European Command destroyers, successfully engaged and destroyed more than 80 one-way attack, uncrewed aerial vehicles and at least six ballistic missiles intended to strike Israel from Iran and Yemen.

Israel’s chief military spokesperson, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, said on Sunday that France was among the countries involved in defending against Iran’s overnight attack on Israel.

“France has very good technology, jets, radar – and I know it was contributing in patrolling airspace,” Hagari said.

Israelis were jubilant on Sunday morning, albeit exhausted. Achieving a 99% success rate on an assault this massive was nothing less than extraordinary – and miraculous. We needed a win after months of derision from a world fast losing patience with the war in Gaza.

Where to from here, we wonder? There’s no question that Israel will have to retaliate to an unprecedented Iranian assault on its territory. We won’t just “take the win”, as suggested by US President Joe Biden. Will it be a kinetic strike or something else? Israel can strike a significant blow to Iran in many different ways, including diplomatic and cyber. Israel will want to capitalise on growing diplomatic support, but also deal the neighbourhood bully a long awaited pounding.

This was a moment we knew would happen eventually. This was a day of reckoning. As many around the globe worry if we’re teetering on another world war, Israelis remain resolute and resilient. As we approach Pesach and recount our delivery from slavery to freedom and the miracles that preceded that, I wonder to myself, is Israel the Moses ready to lead the world out of the tyranny of terror? We’ve never been more ready.

  • Rolene Marks is a Middle East commentator often heard on radio and TV, and is the co-founder of Lay of the Land and the SA-Israel Policy Forum.

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