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How Israel is responding to aggression by Iran

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Israel's war cabinet has met for the second day in a row to discuss the response to this weekend's unprecedented attack by Iran. More than 300 weaponized drones and missiles were launched at Israel from Iran - this in retaliation for a strike on Iran's embassy compound in Syria, a strike attributed to Israel. Well, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing pressure from the U.S. to move cautiously even as members of his far-right coalition are urging a strong reaction. Let's go to Tel Aviv, which is where we find NPR's Carrie Kahn. Hey, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi.

KELLY: So it feels like everyone here in the states is on edge, waiting to see what Israel may or may not do. I can't imagine what it's like there. What do we actually know?

KAHN: The War Cabinet has met again today, and they are weighing their options. We've heard a lot from conservative and far-right lawmakers calling for a swift and decisive response directly on Iran. One very outspoken far-right member of the cabinet tweeted that, quote, "if we wait, we will put ourselves and our children in immediate existential danger." Today David Mencer - he's a spokesman for Benjamin Netanyahu - told reporters that all options are being explored.

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DAVID MENCER: We are prepared for every scenario, both defensive and offensive. And the Prime Minister has said that we will harm anyone who acts against us or plans an attack against us.

KAHN: President Biden has told Netanyahu that the U.S. will only help Israel defensively and not offensively and has urged caution and calm as not to escalate the confrontation further and risk a wider regional war. However, a U.S defense official has told NPR there is a potential that Israel would launch a strike on Iran this week.

KELLY: This week. And would there be domestic support for that? I mean, how is this playing among Israelis?

KAHN: That is a big calculus in Israel's decision-making and especially for this government, which was already unpopular before the war with Hamas and even more so now. Protests are picking up again to oust Netanyahu. They don't like the way he's handled this war, especially that the about 100 hostages being held in Gaza are still there. And they blame him for the military failure that allowed for the Hamas attack on October 7 in the first place. And that killed about 1,200 people here. I was talking with Israelis today and asking, you know, what they thought should be done. Here is retiree Yossi Maman, who said he was terrified on Saturday night during the Iran strike and, of course, doesn't want a wider war but wants Iran to know Israel means business.

YOSSI MAMAN: This is the time to be clever and not to rush, to work together and to do things correct. But this cannot be not answered - cannot be.

KAHN: He's saying Israel must respond to Iran.

KELLY: I mean, it feels we should point out Israel already has its hands more than full. Israel is actively fighting with Hezbollah in the north. And, of course, the war, as you mentioned - it continues in Gaza. What is the latest there?

KAHN: Israel is under a lot of U.S. pressure now to do more to rectify the grave humanitarian crisis after six months of Israel's punishing campaign there. The Biden administration laid out very specific milestones it wants to see Israel to do to ease the human suffering in Gaza if the U.S. is to continue backing the war there. Israel says it's making good on those commitments, including opening a northern border crossing to get aid in faster to areas of Gaza where famine conditions are already underway, according to U.S. officials. Israel says the number of trucks getting into Gaza in general is much higher. They also point to a new bakery opening in northern Gaza with increased deliveries of flour and food there.

NPR's producer in Gaza city has been out reporting and says some prices are coming down, and he's seeing more fruits and vegetables in the markets. But aid agencies say the increases need to be sustained given the devastating and dire situation in Gaza. More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed there, and more than 76,000 are injured. That's according to the Gaza Health Ministry. And very important, too, is the need to ensure the safety of those working to deliver the aid. They say the situation remains dangerous, and communication and coordination gaps remain, too, with Israel's military.

KELLY: NPR's Carrie Kahn reporting from Tel Aviv. Thank you, Carrie.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Carrie Kahn
Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.