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Israel’s Allies Urge Against Retaliation After Iran’s Attack

WorldMiddle EastIsrael’s Allies Urge Against Retaliation After Iran’s Attack

Israel’s allies on Monday were strongly urging it not to retaliate against Iran for the missile and drone attack over the weekend, calling instead for a de-escalation of the tensions that have gripped the Middle East.

The Iranian aerial assault — itself a retaliation for a strike that killed Iranian commanders in Syria — was the first time that Tehran had launched open attacks against Israel from its own soil. As some far-right members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government called for a strong response, the United States, the Group of 7 nations, the European Union and the U.N. secretary general were among those counseling restraint.

Mr. Netanyahu’s government faces a delicate balancing act: how to respond to Iran in order not to look weak, while not alienating the Biden administration and other allies already impatient with Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza. While the United States, Britain and France strongly condemned Iran’s actions and swiftly came to Israel’s defense to help intercept Tehran’s strikes, their calls for restraint highlighted the intense pressure Israel was facing not to fuel a wider Middle East conflict.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken emphasized the need to prevent further escalation in a flurry of calls on Sunday with his counterparts in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Britain and Germany, according to State Department statements. Britain’s foreign secretary, David Cameron, called the Iranian attack — which involved hundreds of missiles and drones, nearly all of which were intercepted — “reckless and dangerous,” but a “total failure.”

“We are urging that they shouldn’t escalate,” Mr. Cameron told Sky News, referring to Israel. “This is a time to think with head as well as heart. To be smart as well as tough.”

His German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock, went a bit further. Asked at a news conference on Monday whether Israel had the right to strike back, Ms. Baerbock said that “the right to self-defense means fending off an attack; retaliation is not a category in international law,” The Associated Press reported.

“Israel won in a defensive way,” she said, adding that “it is now important to secure this defensive victory diplomatically.”

President Emmanuel Macron of France also urged Israel to avoid a military escalation. He told French news media on Monday that France would work with allies to continue isolating Tehran by “increasing sanctions, increasing pressure on nuclear activities and then finding a path to peace in the region.”

The European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council was scheduled to meet on Tuesday to discuss ways to calm the conflict and protect regional security, E.U. spokesman Peter Stano told reporters on Monday, adding that “regional escalation will benefit no one.”

Iranian officials signaled on Sunday that they were seeking to prevent further escalation, and that Iran’s retaliation was over unless Israel struck back. On Sunday evening, Israel’s war cabinet met without deciding how to respond to Iran’s assault, an official who was briefed on the meeting said. The cabinet was scheduled to meet again on Monday afternoon, Israeli news media reported.

Lara Jakes contributed reporting from Rome.

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