Biden tells Netanyahu US will not take part in any counter-offensive against Iran

Iran indicates attack was ‘limited’ but tensions remain high as world leaders caution against military escalation

President Joe Biden has told Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu that the United States would not participate in any Israeli counter-offensive against Iran, according to reports on Sunday by CNN and the Wall Street Journal.

Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel on Saturday night in response to a suspected Israel attack on Iran’s Syria consulate on April 1st.

Speaking to Mr Netanyahu late on Saturday, Mr Biden suggested further response was unnecessary, and senior US officials told their counterparts that the United States would not participate in an offensive response against Iran, CNN and the Wall Street Journal reported.

John Kirby, the White House’s top national security spokesperson, told broadcaster ABC’s This Week program on Sunday that the United States will continue to help Israel defend itself, but does not want war with Iran.


“We don’t seek escalated tensions in the region. We don’t seek a wider conflict,” Kirby said.

Israel has hailed its successful air defences in the face of the unprecedented attack, saying it and its allies thwarted 99 per cent of the more than 300 drones and missiles launched towards its territory.

But regional tensions remain high, amid fears of further escalation in the event of a possible Israeli counter-strike.

Mr Biden said he would convene a meeting of the Group of Seven advanced democracies on Sunday “to co-ordinate a united diplomatic response to Iran’s brazen attack”.

The language further underlined that the Biden administration does not want Iran’s assault to spiral into a broader military conflict.

Iran launched the attack in response to a strike widely blamed on Israel on an Iranian consular building in Syria earlier this month which killed two Iranian generals.

Israel said Iran launched 170 drones, more than 30 cruise missiles and more than 120 ballistic missiles early on Sunday.

Taoiseach Simon Harris condemned the attack on Sunday morning. “I urge all sides to show restraint now and to avoid any escalation in military action and the devastation that would cause,” he said.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin also issued a statement, saying: “I strongly condemn Iran’s attack on Israel. My thoughts are with the Israeli people at this time. The scale and intensity of the attack represents a flagrant threat to international peace and security and is utterly unacceptable. It does nothing to help the cause of the Palestinian people or bring us closer to an end to the suffering in Gaza.”

“There is now an urgent need for regional de-escalation. Further escalation is in nobody’s interest. I urge all actors to intensify efforts to restore stability. Ireland will work closely with our EU partners in responding to this crisis.

Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief, said he would be looking to set up a virtual meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers on Tuesday, to discuss Iran’s attacks. “Our objective is to contribute to de-escalation and security of the region,” he said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

In an earlier statement Mr Borrell said the EU “strongly condemns the unacceptable Iranian attack against Israel”. The attempted drone and missile strikes were an “unprecedented escalation” and posed a “grave threat” to the overall security of the region, he said.

Leaders of the G7 group, which included Mr Biden, French president Emmanuel Macron and British prime minister Rishi Sunak, discussed the escalating situation in the Middle East conflict in a video call on Sunday afternoon.

In a statement following the meeting, the G7 leaders said they unequivocally condemned Iran’s attack on Israel “in the strongest terms”.

The G7 group, which also includes Canada, Japan, Germany, and Italy, as well as representatives of the EU, said: “We express our full solidarity and support to Israel and its people and reaffirm our commitment towards its security.”

The statement said Iran’s actions had “further stepped toward the destabilisation of the region and risks provoking an uncontrollable regional escalation,” which needed to be avoided.

“We demand that Iran and its proxies cease their attacks, and we stand ready to take further measures now and in response to further destabilising initiatives,” it said.

“We will also strengthen our cooperation to end the crisis in Gaza, including by continuing to work towards an immediate and sustainable ceasefire and the release of hostages by Hamas, and deliver increased humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in need,” it said.

Speaking after the meeting, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who phoned into the call, said the meeting had discussed “the need to end the crisis in Gaza as soon as possible”.

“Going forward we will reflect on additional sanctions against Iran in close cooperation with our partners, specifically on its drone and missile programmes,” Dr von der Leyen said.

By Sunday morning, Iran said the attack was over and Israel reopened its air space.

The two foes have for years been engaged in a shadow war marked by incidents such as the Damascus strike.

But Sunday’s assault, which set off air raid sirens across Israel, marked the first time Iran has launched a direct military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Israel has over the years established – often with the help of the United States – a multilayered air defence network that includes systems capable of intercepting a variety of threats including long-range missiles, cruise missiles, drones and short-range rockets.

That system, along with collaboration with US and other forces, helped thwart what could have been a far more devastating assault at a time when Israel is already bogged down in its war against Hamas in Gaza and engaged in low-level fighting on its northern border with Lebanon’s Hizbollah militia.

Israeli and US officials lauded the response to the aerial assault.

“Iran launched more than 300 threats and 99 per cent were intercepted,” said Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman.

“That is a success.”

Asked if Israel would respond, Rear Admiral Hagari said the country would do what was needed to protect its citizens.

Rear Admiral Hagari said that none of the drones reached Israel, 25 cruise missiles were shot down by the Israeli air force and none entered Israel’s airspace.

He said most of the ballistic missiles were also intercepted.

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu posted a short message on X, formerly Twitter, saying: “We intercepted. We blocked. Together, we will win.”

Rear Admiral Hagari said minor damage was caused to an Israeli airbase, but he said it was still functioning.

Rescuers said a seven-year-old girl was seriously wounded in southern Israel, apparently in a missile strike, though they said police were still investigating the circumstances of her injuries.

Israel announced it has reopened its airspace, loosening one restriction it had imposed ahead of the strike, although schools remained closed around the country.

Neighbouring Jordan also reopened its airspace.

General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, said the operation was over, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

“We have no intention of continuing the operation against Israel,” he was quoted as saying.

Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, claimed Iran had taught Israel a lesson and warned that “any new adventures against the interests of the Iranian nation would be met with a heavier and regretful response from the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

Israel may be particularly proud of the success of its defence because it stands in sharp contrast to the failures it endured during Hamas’s attack on October 7th.

Facing a far less powerful enemy in Hamas, Israel’s border defences collapsed and the military took days to repel the marauding militants – an embarrassing defeat for the Middle East’s strongest and best-equipped army.

While thwarting the Iranian onslaught could help restore Israel’s image, what it does next will be closely watched both in the region and in Western capitals.

In a statement on Sunday, secretary of state Antony Blinken said the US does “not seek escalation”, and would hold talks with its allies in the coming days.

Israel and Iran have been on a collision course throughout Israel’s six-month war against Hamas militants in Gaza, triggered by the October 7th attack on Israel.

On that day, militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, also backed by Iran, killed 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped 250 others.

An Israeli offensive in Gaza has caused widespread devastation and killed more than 33,000 people, according to local health officials. AP