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US, UK impose fresh sanctions on Iran for weekend attack on Israel amid fears of all-out war

US officials warned earlier this week that they were planning new sanctions in response to Iran's attack on Israel, with the European Union planning the same. Iran's Saturday attack dramatically escalated tensions and fuelled concerns of a wider war in the Middle East.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Published on: April 18, 2024 19:38 IST
Iran Israel conflict, sanctions on Iran
Image Source : AP Iranian demonstrators chant slogans against Iran days after the weekend attack.

Washington: The United States and the United Kingdom imposed a fresh round of sanctions on Iran in response to Tehran's unprecedented attack on Israel over the weekend, amid growing concerns that an Israeli retaliation could lead to a full-blown war in the Middle East between the two adversaries. Iran launched some 300 projectiles towards Israel in retaliation for a suspected Israeli strike on the Iranian embassy in Syria.

US officials had already warned earlier this week that they would impose new sanctions in response to Iran's attack on Israel and to prevent further strikes. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill also have been quickly pushing forward legislation that would financially punish the Islamic Republic and its leaders. The UK and the European Union had also hinted at fresh sanctions on Tehran.

US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control targeted 16 people and two entities in Iran that produce engines that power the drones used in the April 13 attack on Israel. "We will continue to deploy our sanctions authority to counter Iran with further actions in the days and weeks ahead," said US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Meanwhile, the UK has targeted several Iranian military organisations, individuals and entities involved in Iran’s drone and ballistic missile industries. 

EU leaders also vowed on Wednesday to ramp up sanctions on Iran, targeting its drone and missile deliveries to proxies in Gaza, Yemen and Lebanon. The bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the existing EU sanctions regime would be strengthened and expanded to punish Tehran and help prevent future attacks on Israel. At the same time, he said, Israel needed to exercise restraint.

Iran's attack on Israel

Iran's attack on Saturday caused no deaths and little damage thanks to the air defences and countermeasures of Israel and its allies, it has increased fears that violence rooted in the six-month-old Gaza war is spreading, with the risk of open war between long-time adversaries Iran and Israel. Iran said it considered the matter closed, but Israel's military chief on Monday said the attack would be met with a response.

British Foreign Minister David Cameron said that Israel has "clearly decided" to retaliate against Iran for the missile and drone attacks launched last week - despite international concern rising to a boiling point as a wider conflict threatens to break out in the Middle East following a suspected Israeli strike on Iran's embassy in Syria on April 1. Cameron's statement is the sharpest warning of the escalation of tensions after Iran directly attacked Israel for the first time in decades.

More than six months into a war between Israel and the Iran-backed Palestinian militant group Hamas that has seen flare-ups in violence across the Middle East and killed tens of thousands of people in Gaza, diplomats are searching for a way to avert a direct battle between Israel and Iran. These efforts were thrown in disarray when Iran launched at least 300 missiles and drones towards Israel on Saturday, in response to the attack in Syria.

Israel will decide on response: Netanyahu

Iranian President Ebraham Raisi on Wednesday warned that Israel's "tiniest invasion" in retaliation to a barrage of missile and drone attacks launched by Tehran on Saturday would be met with a "massive and harsh" response. On the other hand, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted that his country will decide whether and how to respond to Iran's major air assault, despite international pressure.

"I want to be clear: we will make our decisions ourselves. The state of Israel will do whatever is necessary to defend itself," Netanyahu said. Despite the tough rhetoric, Israel appears unlikely to attack Iran directly without at least the support of its top ally, the US. However, it could resort to more covert methods such as targeting senior Iranian commanders or Iran-backed groups in other countries or launching a cyber attack.

Violence meanwhile surged on Wednesday between Israel and the Iran-backed Lebanese militant Hezbollah group, which fired a volley of rockets and drones on northern Israel. The attack wounded at least 14 Israeli soldiers, six seriously, the army said. The military said it struck Hezbollah targets deep inside Lebanon in response.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | 'Israel will make its 'own decisions' on responding to Iran', asserts Netanyahu ignoring West

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