Updated April 13, 2024 at 7:46 PM ET

Air raid sirens sounded across Israel and the occupied West Bank and Israeli officials urged people to seek shelter after Iran launched dozens of drones toward Israel late Saturday night in an attack that marked a major escalation of conflict in the Middle East.

Iran had vowed to retaliate after an airstrike on an Iranian consulate in Syria earlier this month killed seven Iranian military officials. It is the first time that Iran has launched an attack on Israel from Iranian soil, Israeli officials said. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said the attack also included missiles.

U.S. forces in the region were active in shooting down drones, a U.S. defense official said. By the early hours of Sunday morning, interceptions by Israel's anti-missile defense system were seen over populous areas including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The Israeli emergency medical service Magen David Adom reported at least one person was injured: a 10-year-old child in critical condition in the area of Arad, a town near the southwestern edge of the Dead Sea.

Saturday's attack, which was first announced by Israeli officials around 4 p.m. ET, was staged in waves and took hours to reach Israel, officials said. Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari warned Israelis to stay in safe rooms for 10 minutes when sirens sounded, and he said that Israel had turned off GPS capabilities across the country.

In a statement broadcast on Iranian state television, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps described the attack as a “large-scale military operation” against multiple targets inside Israel.

In a post on the social media site X, Iran's permanent mission to the United Nations wrote that the attack was a direct response to the strike on the consulate and that “the matter can be deemed concluded.”

“However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran's response will be considerably more severe,” the statement continued. “It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, from which the U.S. MUST STAY AWAY!”

More than 100 drones were launched by Iran, an Israeli military spokesperson told reporters. In response, Israel had positioned tens of aircraft in order to counter the attack and would “do our best to intercept them before they reach Israel,” the spokesperson said.

The U.S. military was directly involved in the response, a U.S. defense official said. “In accordance with our ironclad commitment to Israel's security, U.S. forces in the region continue to shoot down Iranian-launched drones targeting Israel. Our forces remain postured to provide additional defensive support and to protect U.S. forces operating in the region,” the person said.

Israelis were urged to take shelter

Interceptor missiles are launched into the sky early Sunday in Jerusalem.
Interceptor missiles are launched into the sky early Sunday in Jerusalem.
Sam Mednick / AP AP

Officials in Israel had explicitly urged residents of Nevatim, Dimona and Eilat — three cities in Israel's Negev desert region — and people in the northern occupied Golan Heights to take shelter. A major Israeli air base is located near Nevatim, and an Israeli nuclear research facility is located in Dimona.

Airspace over Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon was closed late Saturday.

Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based militant group, said that it had staged its own attack by launching dozens of rockets toward an Israeli military base in the Golan early Sunday.

In a Saturday night address to Israelis, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his country was ready for “any scenario, both defensively and offensively.”

“We have determined a clear principle: Whoever harms us, we will harm them. We will defend ourselves against any threat and will do so level-headedly and with determination,” Netanyahu said.

The launch was also confirmed by the White House, where a spokesperson said President Biden would monitor the attack from the Situation Room alongside top defense and diplomatic officials.

“President Biden has been clear: our support for Israel's security is ironclad,” said National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson. “The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran.”

Iran blames Israel for an earlier attack on its consulate

The attack on Israel comes four days after Iran's leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed retaliation for an April 1 strike on an Iranian consulate in the Syrian capital of Damascus. Iran said the strike killed seven members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, including two generals, and it blamed Israel for the attack. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied being behind the attack.

By Saturday, as anticipation had grown over a possible retaliation, Israeli officials warned residents living in communities near Gaza and the Lebanon border to limit the size of gatherings and to work indoors or within reach of a shelter. Schools across Israel were closed through Monday.

“Iran is a terrorist state — the world is seeing this now more than ever,” Israel's defense minister Yoav Gallant said Saturday, hours before the launch. “We are determined to defend our citizens against this terrorism, and we know how to respond to it.”

In anticipation of the attack, President Biden had cut short a trip to Delaware in order to return to the White House Saturday. “We are devoted to the defense of Israel. We will support Israel. We will help defend Israel. And Iran will not succeed,” Biden said Friday.

U.S. defense officials told NPR Saturday that the U.S. military had moved assets around the region in anticipation of an attack, including aircraft, and had shored up defensive positions for forces in the region. The top U.S. military commander in the Middle East, Gen. Michael Kurilla, arrived in Israel Thursday to coordinate with the Israeli military.

The attack is a large escalation of hostilities in the region

The strike and retaliation represent an escalation of conflict in the region that many officials worldwide had expressed worry about ever since the outbreak of war between Israel and the Gaza-based militant group Hamas on Oct. 7, the day Hamas led an attack on Israel that left some 1,200 people dead.

In a statement released late Saturday, Egypt's foreign affairs ministry called Iran's attack a “dangerous escalation” and urged “the exercise of the utmost restraint to spare the region and its people further factors of instability and tension.”

Iran has long supplied Hamas with funds and weapons. The White House has not directly linked Iran to the Oct. 7 attack.

In the six months since Oct. 7, Israel has bombarded Gaza and conducted a devastating ground invasion that has left much of the territory in ruins and more than 33,000 Palestinians dead, according to Palestinian health officials.

The last time Iran launched a similar attack was in 2020, when it fired ballistic missiles at the Ain al-Asad Air Base in Iraq, wounding dozens of U.S. troops, in retaliation for the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimaniby a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad.

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