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'Best thing' is for everyone to stay 'puzzled' on last week's odd retaliation strike on Iran, Israeli president says

Jake Epstein,Paul Ronzheimer   

'Best thing' is for everyone to stay 'puzzled' on last week's odd retaliation strike on Iran, Israeli president says
  • Israel last week responded to Iran's unprecedented attack earlier this month with a one-off strike.
  • Friday's strike raised questions about the limited nature of the attack and how it unfolded.

Israel's lone strike on an Iranian military base last week quickly raised questions about the scope of the damage and exactly how the attack was carried out, with competing narratives from Tehran. But Israeli President Isaac Herzog doesn't seem to mind the ambiguity.

"I think the best thing would be for everybody to stay puzzled," Herzog said during an interview with Axel Springer media outlets on Sunday.

"The only thing I can say," he added, "is that the last two weeks have exposed the real threat to world stability. It starts in Tehran and emanates throughout the region of the Middle East with proxies."

An Israeli aircraft reportedly used a long-range air-to-surface missile to strike an air-defense system at a military base near the central Iranian city of Isfahan early Friday morning local time. The area is also home to sites affiliated with Tehran's nuclear program, which the United Nations has since confirmed remain secure.

Israeli officials have not publicly claimed responsibility for the strike, while Tehran attempted to downplay the incident by denying the employment of a missile, but, per US officials cited in multiple reports, the strike was Israeli. Experts say the limited attack was likely Israel's way of sending a message that it could hit deep into Iran without further escalating an already risky situation.

The strike came several days after Iran launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, during which Tehran and its proxies fired more than 300 missiles and drones at the country. Nearly all the munitions were intercepted by Israeli and partner forces in the region, including the US military.

Israeli officials vowed to retaliate in response to the barrage, despite many of its Western partners urging the country to exercise restraint, warning that any further escalation could risk a broader military confrontation with Iran and plunge the Middle East into even more violence.

Herzog's comments on Sunday echoed similar remarks made by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday, who told reporters at a briefing that Iran and its proxies are the "single biggest threat" to the security of Israel, America, and most countries in the Middle East.

"The attack that was launched by Iran was like an attack of declaring war," Herzog said in the interview.

"However," the president continued, "we are responsible and we seek stability and peace. And I think part of the actions in world affairs — or in the chess game of world affairs — is also, in many times, to act in a responsible and restrained manner."

"That's what we have done throughout this crisis, without going into any further detail," he said.

Iran's April 13 attack was itself a retaliation for an Israeli airstrike on an Iranian diplomatic facility in Syria on April 1. The bold strike killed several high-ranking military officials, including two generals in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Tehran promised a harsh response.

The incidents of the past few weeks have dragged a decades-long shadow war between Israel and Iran into broad daylight. The two bitter foes had historically relied on covert assassinations, strikes in other countries, and proxy forces to trade blows instead of overt attacks on the enemy.

These tit-for-tat attacks have also left the Middle East on edge as it continuously braced for a response — first from Iran and then from Israel. However, Tehran has signaled that it won't retaliate over the Isfahan strike after appearing to dissociate itself from the attack.