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US forces shot down over 75 Iranian missiles and drones in its biggest air-defense battle of the Middle East crisis

Jake Epstein   

US forces shot down over 75 Iranian missiles and drones in its biggest air-defense battle of the Middle East crisis
  • Iran launched an unprecedented missile and drone attack on Israel this weekend.
  • The IDF said 99% of the 300 or so Iranian munitions were shot down.

US forces engaged and shot down more than 75 of the missiles and drones that Iran fired at Israel this weekend, marking its biggest air-defense battle of the six-month-long Middle East crisis.

Iran and its proxy militias launched a barrage of 170 attack drones, 120 ballistic missiles, and 30 cruise missiles at Israel in a massive and unprecedented attack on Saturday night local time, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

It was the first-ever direct attack on Israel from Iranian soil. About 99% of the threats were intercepted by Israel and its partners, the IDF said, and most of them did not even cross into Israeli territory — a remarkable air-defense success.

US forces in the region eliminated more than 70 of the Iranian munitions, a senior US military official told reporters on Sunday.

Two US Navy destroyers operating in the eastern Mediterranean Sea — the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Carney — engaged and destroyed between four and six ballistic missiles, and a Patriot air-defense system shot down one ballistic missile above Iraq, an official said.

A majority of the remaining ballistic missiles were engaged by Israel's Arrow 2 and 3 systems, which make up the top echelon of the country's sophisticated air defense network. A few of the ballistic missiles entered Israeli territory and struck targets, including an IDF base, causing minor damage, the military said.

US fighter jets also shot down more than 70 Iranian one-way attack drones, the American military official said. They would not say how many aircraft were involved in the interceptions.

President Joe Biden said he directed the US military to move aircraft and ballistic missile defenses to the region over the past week.

"Thanks to these deployments and the extraordinary skill of our service members, we helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles," he said in a statement.

"Our forces remain postured to protect US troops and partners in the region, provide further support for Israel's defense, and enhance regional stability," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement after the attack.

Britain's defense minister, Grant Shapps, confirmed that the UK also intercepted multiple drones. None of the drones or cruise missiles launched by Iran crossed into Israeli territory, according to the IDF.

The attack marked the US military's biggest air-defense battle of the ongoing and widespread Middle East crisis, which began with Hamas' October 7 terror attack across southern Israel, sparking an outburst of violence across the region.

Since October, US forces have engaged aerial threats launched by Iran-backed militias above Iraq and Syria, and also the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The largest of these attacks involved more than 20 drones and missiles carried out by the Yemen-based Houthis earlier this year.

Tehran's attack against Israel, meanwhile, came in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike on an Iranian diplomatic facility in Syria at the start of April. The strike killed several military officials, including two generals in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Following the incident, Iran vowed revenge and telegraphed that it would retaliate against Israel. The Middle East had been on heightened alert over the past two weeks as it braced for a possible response from Tehran, which was unclear in terms of size and scope.

The attack on Saturday was met with resounding international condemnation, with world leaders blasting Iran as "reckless." The leaders of the G7 — which is made up of the US, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, and Japan — said they expressed solidarity with Israel and are committed to the country's security.

"With its actions, Iran has further stepped toward the destabilization of the region and risks provoking an uncontrollable regional escalation," the leaders said in a statement. "This must be avoided."

For now, Israel appears to be calibrating a response to the Iranian attack, although it is unclear at this time what that may look like.

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