Israel will respond to Iran's attack, Cameron says

For days, Israel's closest Western allies have implored the country's wartime government not to risk triggering a wider war by responding too forcefully to last weekend's barrage of Iranian missiles and drones. And top German and British diplomats delivered this message in person to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

But Netanyahu emerged from those talks determined that his country would not bow to any outside pressure in choosing its response. Before a cabinet meeting he declared that Israel “will do whatever is necessary to defend itself” and warned allies that “we will make our own decisions,” according to his office.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron acknowledged shortly before meeting the prime minister that Israel was unlikely to heed the call to turn the other cheek.

“It's clear that the Israelis are making the decision to act,” Cameron told the BBC. “We hope they do it in a way that does as little as possible to aggravate the situation.”

The United States, Britain and Germany have urged Israel to avoid making moves that could increase tension with Iran, which launched around 300 missiles and drones on Saturday night in what is believed to be its first direct attack on Israel. Most of the missiles and drones were shot down before they reached their targets – thanks in part to assistance from the United States, Britain, France and Jordan – and those that did get through caused minimal damage.

Netanyahu thanked Israel's allies for their “support in word and deed” in a speech before a cabinet meeting, according to his office. But he added: “They also have all kinds of tips and advice. I appreciate it, but I want to make it clear: we will make our own decisions.”

Iran has warned it would react forcefully to any Israeli aggression, with the army commander-in-chief, General Abdolrahim Mousavi, saying on Wednesday: “We will respond with more lethal weapons.”

Israel's war cabinet has met several times since last weekend with no apparent decision on when and how to respond to the attack. Officials are said to be considering a range of options, from a direct attack on Iran to a cyberattack or targeted assassinations, trying to send a clear message to Iran without triggering a serious escalation.

“Israel will respond when it sees fit,” an Israeli official said on Wednesday, adding that it had “several ways” to do so. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Cameron said the Group of 7, which includes the United States, Britain and Germany, should work together to penalize Iran with sanctions. U.S. and European officials said separately on Tuesday that they were considering imposing further sanctions on Tehran that could hit its oil revenues and weapons programs.

Ahead of Wednesday's meetings, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Iran's actions “brought an entire region to the brink.”

“The goal now is to stop Iran without further escalation,” he said in a send on social media Tuesday. “Iran's plan to sow further violence must not work.”

Both ministers said they would also visit to push for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and draw attention to the continued captivity of hostages held there. Iran's attack shifted international attention away from the six-month conflict.

Adam Rasgon contributed to the reporting.

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