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Strikes on Israel raise concerns

By JAN YUMUL in Hong Kong and ZHOU JIN  in Beijing | | Updated: 2024-04-14 23:34
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An Israeli anti-missile system intercepts drones and missiles launched by Iran, as seen on Sunday from Ashkelon, Israel. Amir Cohen / REUTERS

The Foreign Ministry said in an online statement on Sunday that Beijing has expressed deep concern over the situation in the Middle East following Iran's drone and missile strikes on Israel, and has called for relevant parties to exercise calm and restraint to prevent further escalation of tension.

The strikes, which started late Saturday, were in retaliation for an airstrike on April 1 that hit an Iranian diplomatic building in the Syrian capital of Damascus, killing at least one senior figure in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and several other officers.

Noting that the situation is the latest increase in hostilities related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza, the ministry said that there should be no more delays in implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 2728, which calls for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

Beijing called on the international community, especially countries with influence, to play a constructive role in maintaining peace and stability in the region, the ministry added.

The Israel Defense Forces said on its X social media account that its multilayered Aerial Defense Array system, "together with Israel's strategic allies", successfully intercepted the majority of the missiles and drones before they crossed into Israeli territory, where small hits were identified, including at an IDF base in southern Israel.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said that Israeli military targets were hit.

After the launches, Iran's mission to the UN said on its X social media account that Iran's military action was "conducted on the strength of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter" pertaining to legitimate defense, in response to "the Zionist regime's aggression against our diplomatic premises in Damascus".

"The matter can be deemed concluded," it said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz, in an interview with Israeli Army Radio, said: "We said that if Iran attacks Israel, we will attack it back and this is still effective. We need to deepen our cooperation with our allies. I will lead a political attack against Iran."

Israeli media quoted Immigration Minister Ofir Sofer as telling Army Radio that "Iran's audacity in such an attack must be erased".

Iran's mission to the UN warned that "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 US must stay away".

In a statement, United States President Joe Biden praised US forces, which he said "helped Israel take down nearly all" the drones and missiles. Biden also condemned the attacks, and was joined by French President Emmanuel Macron and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

Iran's UN mission said, "Iran's invocation of Article 51 of the UN Charter occurred following a 13-day period marked by the Security Council's inaction and silence, coupled with its failure to condemn the Israeli regime's aggressions."

"Certain countries' precipitous condemnation of Iran's exercise of its legitimate right suggests a reversal of roles, equating the victim with the criminal," it added.

The UN Security Council said it had scheduled an open emergency meeting under the agenda item "the situation in the Middle East" to consider the drone and missile attacks by Iran on Israel, according to Vanessa Frazier, permanent representative of Malta to the UN.

The increase in tensions also prompted Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and even Iran to temporarily close their airspace after reports of interference with the GPS navigation system, Al Jazeera reported.

Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi, secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, said in a statement that all relevant parties should commit to upholding regional and global security and peace in the Middle East, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

He urged all parties involved to exercise maximum self-restraint to prevent further escalation that could threaten regional stability and the safety of civilians.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia expressed deep concern over the developments in the region and called for all parties to exercise maximum restraint "and to protect the region and its people from the dangers of war".

Ali Khansari, an international affairs analyst and graduate of regional studies at Allameh Tabataba'i University in Teheran, told China Daily that Iran's strikes on Israeli military facilities were "unprecedented".

"It can be said that Iran's military action was not an attack but a response to Israel's actions to prevent future Israeli attacks. Iranian authorities consider it a punishment, not a military attack," said Khansari.

Khansari also noted that the military action "occurred at a time when Israel and its allies were on high military, security and intelligence alert, indicating that Iran's attack was not a surprise action and that Israel was fully prepared when attacked".

Passengers wait at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, in the early hours of Sunday after an overnight attack by Iran closed the airspace and led to flight cancellations. Israel reopened its airspace as of 7:30 am, and airlines said that operations were returning to normal. Nir Keidar via Getty Images

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