Retrospective: How Israel, Iran Came to Blows

Israel flag and Iran flag
Israel flag and Iran flag | Image by Oleksii Liskonih/Getty Images

Tensions between Israel and Iran have steadily escalated since the Iranian revolution in 1979 but have been mainly fought through proxies until the Islamic republic’s direct missile and drone barrage against the Jewish state, which marked a dramatic ratcheting up of the “shadow war” between the two nations.

On Saturday, Iran launched over 350 ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and drones containing a combined 60 tons of explosives at Israel. The unprecedented attack by Iran was in response to an April 1 airstrike on its consular building in Damascus, Syria, which killed several high-ranking Islamic Revolutionary Guard officers, members of Hezbollah, and two civilians, as reported by The Dallas Express. Israel has not claimed responsibility for the strike.

Israeli, U.S., and Jordanian forces intercepted roughly 99% of Saturday’s barrage. The lone casualty was a 7-year-old Bedouin girl who was severely injured and remains in critical condition.

Conflict between the two nations began to heat up in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union and has escalated in the decades since. Iran is accused of funding and training terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and Hamas, while Israel has used covert operations to assassinate high-ranking Iranian military officials and nuclear scientists.

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump ordered a drone strike on Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian major general who led the country’s Quds Force since 1998. According to the Pentagon, he was “responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more,” reported CNN. Brig-Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, who was killed in the April 1 strike, was the highest-ranking member of the Quds Force to be killed since Soleimani.

Iran and Israel were once allies, and Iran was the second nation to recognize Israel as a sovereign state in the post-World War II era. At the time, Iran was governed by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was forced into exile in 1979. The Islamic regime that took power turned the relationship with Israel from one of peace and friendship to one of aggression almost overnight. During the revolution, Iran’s Jewish population dropped from 80,000 to 20,000.

Relations between Iran and Israel continued to deteriorate through the 1990s and 2000s, becoming particularly dangerous after the Iranian election of President Mohammad Khatami in 1997. Tensions escalated further with the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005. As Iran moved closer to achieving its nuclear aspirations, Israel purportedly began a campaign of assassinating Iranian scientists in 2010.

The conflict between the two nations has further escalated since the start of the Syrian Civil War, with Iran backing Hezbollah in its bid to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Israel actively engaging Iranian forces and shipments of arms and fighters participating in the conflict.

Israel has continued to target senior military officials. At the same time, Iran has backed several prominent terrorist organizations, most notably Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen, all of whom have launched proxy attacks against Israel, which have become almost daily since the start of the conflict in Gaza.

A major escalation between Israel and Iran occurred on October 7, 2023, when Hamas attacked Israeli civilian and military positions along the border of Gaza. Using a barrage of more than 3,000 missiles as cover, terrorists proceeded to break through fences surrounding Gaza, killing approximately 1,200 and taking roughly 250 hostages. The action led to a significant response by the Israeli Defense Forces.

The April 1 attack on the consular building in Damascus was seen as a significant escalation in tensions between the two countries because embassy properties are typically considered “protected” by diplomatic norms under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, as reported by Zero Hedge.

So far, Israel has shown restraint in responding to the attack by Iran, with much speculation as to what form that response will take. President Joe Biden has allegedly informed Israel that the United States will not participate in any sort of counterstrike against Iran, reported Reuters. DX is following developments in the conflict and is currently monitoring Israeli war cabinet meetings as the nation determines the next steps in the ongoing conflict.

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