US helps 'take down nearly all' drones, missiles in Iran retaliatory attack toward Israel: Biden

Over 200 drones and UAVs have been launched at Israel so far, the IDF says.

ByMartha Raddatz, Selina Wang, Luis Martinez and Mary Bruce ABCNews logo
Sunday, April 14, 2024
Iran launches retaliatory attack on Israel: Here's everything we know
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps earlier said that it launched extensive missile and drone operations against targets in Israel, according to Tasnim, the Iranian news-agency affiliated with the branch of Iran's armed forces.

WASHINGTON -- U.S. officials confirmed Israel's announcement that Iran's retaliatory strike has begun, ABC News reported.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps earlier said that it launched extensive missile and drone operations against targets in Israel, according to Tasnim, the Iranian news-agency affiliated with the branch of Iran's armed forces.

Over 100 drones were fired at Israel by Iran, in addition to more than 100 unmanned aerial vehicles launched from Iran, the Israel Defense Forces said in a press conference Saturday.

The U.S. helped "Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles," President Joe Biden said in a statement late Saturday evening.

The president also detailed his call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following the attacks, where Biden said he reaffirmed America's "ironclad commitment to the security of Israel." He also said that his team would stay in "close touch" with Israel's leaders.

Biden said his team will engage with the G7 leaders on Sunday to coordinate a "united diplomatic response to Iran's brazen attack."

He noted that though American forces were not impacted, forces will continue to monitor and "will not hesitate to take all necessary action to protect our people."

WABC Josh Einiger is reporting in Israel amid Iran's retaliatory attack.

Before the attack was announced, a FlyDubai flight from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to Tel Aviv, Israel, turned around as it was over Saudi Arabia, flight-tracking data showed. United Airlines also canceled a Saturday flight from Newark to Tel Aviv and the return flight.

"We are prepared for any scenario, both in defense and attack," Netanyahu said in a video statement.

The IDF said it has told Israeli residents in the occupied Golan Heights region to stay close to their safe rooms.

"In accordance with the situational assessment, residents of the northern Golan Heights, the area of Nevatim, Dimona, and Eilat are required to stay near protective spaces until further notice," the IDF said in a statement.

"Upon the activation of sirens, it is required to enter into a protected space. If there is no protected space, it is required to find the most protected area possible. In any case, it is required to wait ten minutes, and no less," the statement said.

"The IDF is on high alert and is constantly monitoring the operational situation. The IDF Aerial Defense Array is on high alert, along with IAF fighter jets and Israeli Navy vessels that are on a defense mission in Israeli airspace. The IDF is monitoring all targets," the IDF said in a statement.

"We ask the public to adhere to and follow the instructions of the Home Front Command and the official IDF announcements regarding the matter," the statement added.

Israel has been on heightened alert since an airstrike last week killed two Iranian generals in Syria. Iran accused Israel of being behind the attack and vowed revenge. Israel has not commented on that attack.

Iranian state television announced that Tehran had launched an attack toward Israel.

"The evil regime will be punished," Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement on X.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced that it has launched extensive missile and drone operations against targets in the occupied territories, according to Tasnim, the Iranian news-agency affiliated with the branch of Iran's armed forces.

An Israeli source also confirmed to ABC News that Iran fired cruise missiles from Iraq as well.

In a post on X, the Iranian Foreign Minister said "necessary warning has been given to America."

A U.S. official has also confirmed Israel's announcement that Iran's retaliatory strike has begun.

A senior U.S. official told ABC News they now think there will be anywhere from 400 to 500 drones and missiles launched at Israel from Iraq, Syria, southern Lebanon and the Houthis but that the bulk will be launched form Iran. The drones are the same kind used in Ukraine.

President Joe Biden will meet with principals of the National Security Council to discuss events in the Middle East Saturday afternoon. The meeting will take place in the White House Situation Room, the White House confirmed.

"Iran has begun an airborne attack against Israel. President Biden is being regularly updated on the situation by his national security team," the White House said in a statement.

"This attack is likely to unfold over a number of hours. President Biden has been clear: our support for Israel's security is ironclad. The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran," it added.

The U.S. will try to help Israel intercept everything possible -- not just those that pass over U.S. ships -- despite Iran informing the U.S. that they should stay out of it, a senior U.S. official confirmed to ABC News.

Iran's Permanent Mission to the United Nations says its attack on Israel was conducted as a "legitimate defense" in response to Israel's attack on the Iranian embassy in Syria.

"Conducted on the strength of Article 51 of the UN Charter pertaining to legitimate defense, Iran's military action was in response to the Zionist regime's aggression against our diplomatic premises in Damascus. The matter can be deemed concluded. However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran's response will be considerably more severe. It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, from which the U.S. MUST STAY AWAY!" Iran's permanent mission to the U.N. said in a statement.

In the coming hours, the U.S. expects missile launches from Iran and southern Lebanon -- and maybe even the Houthis -- as well as drones, which take longer to reach target. The Iranians are trying to overwhelm the Israeli air defenses with drones and missiles coming in at different altitudes, speeds and directions -- but hitting targets at the same time, according to the official.

While the U.S. expects that most of these will be intercepted -- upwards of 85% -- the fear is that if any Israeli lives are lost, the Israeli response will be much bigger.

The target is believed to be three military bases, especially one where F-35s are kept. While these bases are relatively remote, there are towns nearby and these Iranian weapons are not completely accurate.

The U.S. has no doubt Israel will respond whether lives are lost or not. And that Iran itself will be targeted.

Sources at the White House say there's deep concern that an Iranian retaliatory strike against Israel -- and the possible Israeli response -- will widen this war.

Biden cut his weekend vacation short to consult with his national security team in preparation for this. They've been on high alert and knew this attack was imminent.

U.S. officials said the military is prepared to provide assistance to defend Israel against attacks if needed.

The U.S. is already moving military assets to the region to deter Iran and help protect U.S. forces. Officials say they have been urging Iran against further escalation or attacks on U.S. forces. They've been stressing that the U.S. was not involved in the Damascus, Syria, strike earlier this month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The video in the player above is from a previous report.