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Published April 14, 2024

Iran's attack on Israel raises fears of a wider war, but all sides have also scored gains

By  Tia Goldenberg
Israel / Iran - AP
In this image released by the White House, President Joe Biden, third from right, meets with members of the National Security team regarding the unfolding missile attacks on Israel from Iran, Saturday, April 13, 2024, in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington. (Adam Schultz/The White House via AP)

The unprecedented attack by Iran on Israel early Sunday ratcheted up regional tensions, confirming long-held fears about the Israel-Hamas war spiralling into a broader conflagration. But Iran, Israel, the United States and Hamas also walked away with some gains.

Here’s a look at the fallout.

ISRAEL'S RESPONSE COULD RESTORE FAITH IN ITS MILITARY

As the more than 300 drones and missiles headed toward Israel in the early hours of Sunday, the country was able to successfully put to the test its aerial defence array, which, along with help from allies, blocked 99% of the projectiles and prevented any major damage.

By contrast, Israel's military had suffered a bruising defeat at the hands of a far less equipped enemy when Hamas stormed from Gaza into Israel on Oct. 7. That was a major blow to Israel’s image as a regional military powerhouse and shattered any sense of invincibility. The response to Iran's attack could be what restores faith in the country's military, even as its forces are bogged down in Gaza, more than six months after Israel declared war on Hamas there.

Israel has also boasted about the coalition of forces that helped it repel the Iranian assault. It's a much-needed show of support at a time when Israel is at its most isolated because of concerns surrounding its conduct during the war against Hamas, including a worsening humanitarian crisis and a staggering death toll in Gaza.

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IRAN SHOWS OFF ITS MIGHT

Iran vowed repeatedly that it would respond to an apparent Israeli strike on an Iranian diplomatic compound in Damascus on April 1 that killed two generals. Sunday's assault allowed Iran to show to its citizens that it won’t stand by when its assets are attacked and that it was serious when it threatened revenge.

With its strike, Iran was able to exhibit its fierce firepower, instill fear in some Israelis and disrupt the lives of many through school cancellations. But with little damage actually caused in Israel, Iran might hope that any response will be measured. Several hours after it launched the drones and missiles, Iran said the operation was over.

THE UNITED STATES STOOD BY ISRAEL

The U.S. was a key player in repelling the assault, demonstrating to its allies around the world the power and reliability of American support.

Now, as Israel mulls how and whether to respond, that alliance will be put to the test, with the Biden administration seeking to exert its leverage on Israel and prevent it from carrying out a response that might worsen the conflict.

HAMAS MAY BENEFIT FROM IRAN'S DIRECT INVOLVEMENT

Hamas, which is backed by Iran, welcomed the strike on Israel. Since launching its Oct. 7 attack, Hamas had hoped that regional partners might come to its assistance and drag Israel into a broader war. While some have done — including the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon and Yemen’s Houthis — Iran had not directly entered the fray until Sunday.

Hamas could hope that the attack is the first salvo in deeper Iranian engagement in the war in Gaza. It also could hope that violence in the West Bank, where an Israeli teen was killed and settlers rampaged in Palestinian towns, continues to heat up. At the very least, Iran’s attack may have emboldened Hamas to dig in its heels in current negotiations over a cease-fire, hoping the increased military pressure on Israel might lead it to accept the militant group's harder-line terms for a deal.

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