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Iran launches retaliatory strikes against Israel

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles towards Israel last night. Israel's military says it, along with the U.S. and other partners, intercepted 99% of the incoming fire. The country's defense minister is warning that the military confrontation with Iran is, quote, "not over yet." President Joe Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pledging U.S. support. NPR's Carrie Kahn is in Tel Aviv and joins us now. Thank you for being with us, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi.

RASCOE: So what was it like there last night as all of this played out?

KAHN: Ayesha, it was a tense night and well into the early morning hours, too. Word came in that the drones and missiles had left Iran around 11 p.m., and then there was just hours of waiting until they arrived. And we heard sirens go off in several cities throughout Israel including Jerusalem. More than 300 drones, cruise and ballistic missiles were launched toward Israel last night in this display of firepower that just lit up the skies over many Israeli cities.

In Tel Aviv, we could hear the fighter jets and then these flashes of lights as Israel's air defense system shot down many of the incoming missiles and drones. Israel's military says the overnight damage from the missiles here was limited, just hitting an air force base in the south. And unfortunately, one 10-year-old girl was hurt after being hit by shrapnel.

RASCOE: Carrie, what is Iran saying about this attack?

KAHN: Iran says the attack was in retaliation for the airstrike on its embassy compound in Syria, presumably by Israel, earlier this month. That attacked killed commanders in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the U.S. has labeled a terrorist organization. That was two weeks ago, and from then, Iran vowed to strike back at Israel. It was just unclear what that target was going to be, and, of course, we found out last night.

Iran's foreign minister said that Iran had given other countries 72 hours' notice of the attack and had told the U.S. that it was not in its plans to hit U.S. targets. And finally, Ayesha, after five hours after those first weapons were launched, Iran put out the statement through its U.N. mission that, quote, "the matter can be deemed concluded," and that was it.

RASCOE: So what's been Israel's response so far today?

KAHN: Well, we're waiting to hear more, of course. At the conclusion of the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, quote, "we have intercepted. We have contained. Together, we shall win." Israel's military spokesman, Daniel Hagari, briefed reporters throughout the night and early this morning. Here's what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DANIEL HAGARI: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: He said, "Iran committed a very grave act last night, pushing the Middle East into escalation. We are doing and will do everything needed to defend the citizens of the State of Israel." Also last night, there were continued cross-border military exchanges between Israel and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.

RASCOE: What do we know about President Biden's call with Prime Minister Netanyahu early this morning?

KAHN: In a statement from the White House, Biden told Netanyahu that he could count on strong U.S. support for its defense. He congratulated Israel on its, quote, "remarkable capacity" to defeat and defend against the unprecedented attack. Netanyahu, as you said, is meeting with his war cabinet today to talk about Israel's options now.

A member of Netanyahu's Likud party also praised the coalition of forces, and it was just interesting the way he put it. He said that they fought off the Iranian attack with what he emphasized was this broad international legitimacy. He apparently is highlighting here that Israel is getting international support. That's coming after months of heavy worldwide criticism of Israel's conduct in the war in Gaza and the humanitarian disaster for Palestinians.

RASCOE: The war in Gaza continues. What's the latest on that?

KAHN: In the past 24 hours, health officials report dozens of people killed by Israeli forces. The death toll now has hit more than 33,700 people since the war began on October 7 when Hamas struck Israel, killing about 1,200 people. And I would also add that the situation in the Israeli-occupied West Bank has been very tense in the past few days. There was a violent incident in the northern West Bank Palestinian village, where Israeli settlers torched homes and cars following the apparent kidnapping and murder of a 14-year-old Israeli boy, and one Palestinian was killed. This is all part of growing tensions and violence in the West Bank since the start of the war, Ayesha.

RASCOE: NPR's Carrie Kahn in Tel Aviv. Thank you very much.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.
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