What's In Blue

Posted Sun 14 Apr 2024

Emergency Meeting on the Iranian Airborne Attack against Israel

This afternoon (14 April) at 4 pm EST, the Security Council will convene for an emergency meeting on the airborne attack that Iran launched against Israel yesterday (13 April). Israel requested the meeting, which will be held under the agenda item “The situation in the Middle East”. Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to brief.

Israel requested the meeting in a 13 April letter addressed to the president of the Security Council and the Secretary-General. The letter described the attack as a “clear violation” of the UN Charter and international law, accused Iran of stoking regional instability, and called on the Council to “unequivocally condemn Iran for these grave violations and immediately act to designate the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] as a terrorist organization”.

In a 14 April post on X (formerly Twitter), the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that the attack had consisted of approximately 300 “aerial threats”, including 170 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), 120 ballistic missiles, and 30 cruise missiles launched by Iran and its proxy groups in the region, which the Israeli Foreign Ministry identified as militias in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. According to the IDF post, Israel and its “international partners”—notably the UK and the US—intercepted 99 percent of the launches. Media reported that the Nevatim air force base in Israel’s southern Negev desert suffered minor damage but remained operational, while 12 people in southern Israel received hospital treatment, including one seven-year-old girl for serious injuries caused by shrapnel.

In a 13 April letter addressed to the president of the Security Council and the Secretary-General, Iran said that it had launched the operation in exercise of its right to self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter. The letter described the military action as retaliation for Israel’s 1 April attack against an Iranian facility in Damascus, which killed several senior commanders of the IRGC. Iran has characterised that building as a consular facility entitled to special protection under international law, while Israel has asserted that Iran used it for military purposes.

Yesterday’s attack marks a significant escalation of tensions amid the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. Since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on 7 October 2023, several fronts have opened between Israel and its allies and the constellation of armed groups comprising Iran’s “axis of resistance” in the region. While Israel is in direct conflict with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen have targeted commercial shipping activity in the Red Sea, and militia groups in Iraq and Syria have launched dozens of drone and missile attacks against US military assets in the region. In January, Iran launched a series of ballistic missile strikes in Pakistan and Syria, targeting groups allegedly responsible for recent terrorist attacks in Iran, as well as in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, hitting a facility that Iran claimed was an Israeli intelligence centre. Yesterday’s attack is the first time that Iran has directly targeted Israeli territory, however.

In a post on X yesterday, the Permanent Mission of Iran to the UN said that the “matter can be deemed concluded”. It added that if Israel were to make “another mistake”, however, Tehran’s response would “be considerably more severe”. The post also warned the US to remain uninvolved in the conflict. In its 13 April letter to the Council and the Secretary-General, Iran reiterated that should Israel “commit any military aggression again, Iran’s response will be assuredly and decisively…stronger, and more resolute”. At the time of writing, Israel was reportedly considering its response. US defence officials have reportedly cautioned their Israeli counterparts against further escalation.

Guterres immediately condemned Iran’s attack, calling for an immediate cessation of the hostilities, and urging all parties “to exercise maximum restraint to avoid any action that could lead to major military confrontations on multiple fronts in the Middle East”. Several of Israel’s allies also strongly condemned the attack, including Canada, France, Germany, the UK, and the US. In a statement, US President Joe Biden said that he would convene leaders of the Group of Seven (G7)—which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK, in addition to the US—for a meeting today to coordinate a “united diplomatic response”.

Since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, the Council has met repeatedly to discuss the conflict and its regional implications. In addition to regularly convening meetings on the conflict itself, the Council held a 10 January briefing on Houthi attacks in the Red Sea and a 5 February briefing on US retaliatory strikes against Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria. Most recently, the Council convened on 2 April to discuss Israel’s attack against the Iranian facility in Damascus. Briefing the Council at that meeting, Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific Mohamed Khaled Khiari expressed concern about escalating tensions and warned that any “miscalculation could lead to broader conflict in an already volatile region”.

Following that meeting, Russia apparently proposed a press statement condemning the Israeli attack. It seems that France, the UK, and the US rejected the draft text, however, citing uncertainty about the facts of the strike and the status of the Iranian facility. Council members may consider another a press statement in response to the latest attack by Iran.

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