Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

99 Percent Iranian Missiles and Drones Shot Down; Celebrations in Iran After Attacks on Israel; Iran Launches More than 300 Missiles and Drones at Israel; Drones and Ballistic Intercepted by U.S.; U.S. Won't Participate in Any Offensive Operation; Global Reaction to Attack; Escalating Tensions in the Middles East; Biden to Meet with G7 Leaders; U.S. Lawmakers Urge More for Support of Israel. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired April 14, 2024 - 02:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL NEWS ANCHOR: Hello and welcome. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi where the time is 10:00 a.m. here. It is 2:00 a.m. on the East Coast of America.

And a keen eye clearly being kept on what is going on in this region. And the IDF says it had a 99 percent success rate in shooting down Iranian drones and missiles launched at Israel. This is what it all looked like a few hours ago, before the attacks apparently subsided.

Middle of the night, above Israel. Here's what we know so far. The IDF says more than 300 missiles and drones were fired on Israel overnight. Those few that got through hit an airbase in Southern Israel, causing minor damage. Israel says that the U.S., Britain and France also acted during the strikes, and that some of the missiles were fire from Iraq and Yemen.

Tehran says the attack was in response to an Israeli strike on Iran's embassy in Damascus earlier this month and that the matter can be regarded as "concluded."

And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has spoken on the phone with the U.S. President Joe Biden. He told Mr. Netanyahu that these attacks were largely unsuccessful, which Biden says was a win for Israel. CNN's MJ Lee has learned the president told Mr. Netanyahu the U.S. will not take part in any offensive operation against Iran.

Meanwhile, Mr. Netanyahu reacted on social media, saying, we have intercepted, we have contained, we shall win.

Israel and Jordan have now reopened their airspace which had been closed for much of the past 24 hours.

Well, airlines continue to avoid Iraqi and Iranian airspace as frequent travelers know that air route over Iraq and Iran is a vital corridor for global commercial travel.

Meanwhile, inside Iran, celebrations broke out on the streets of Tehran after word of the attack got out. CNN covering this story from all angles. Nic Robertson is standing by in Jerusalem. Paula Hancocks is with me here in Abu Dhabi.

Let's start with you, Nic. Is this it? The Iranians have certainly said this is an attack that is concluded, an operation that is conclude. What's the perspective there in Israel?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, it seems to be done for tonight, doesn't it, Israel reopening its airspace, Jordan reopening its airspace. So that means there are no more threats in the skies.

And by its own accounting of itself, 99 percent of everything shot down, 170 drones, 30 cruise missiles, 120 ballistic missiles. 99 percent of approximately 300, which is what Daniel Hagari, the IDF spokesman said were shot down, that would mean only three or four got through. I think the videos we have seen show that a couple more missiles than that got though and they got in the Nevatim Air Base in the Negev Desert, which is operational. There were 31 people reported with minor injuries, scrambling to get to their shelters safely, as is the way it's being characterized here.

Yes, by Israel's own accounting, you could almost say one and done, but by the language being used by defense minister, Yoav Gallant, saying that the confrontation with Iran isn't over yet, and the prime minister saying, together, we will win, then the cautionary note from President Biden after his 25-minute phone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu saying the United States will not support Israel in offensive actions.

Defensively, there is an ironclad guarantee from the U.S. that it will stand behind Israel defending itself against attacks from Iran offensively, not there.


So, what does this tell us? It seems to indicate that Israel could still choose to strike back at Iran. It's seems that there will be. And President Biden is going to call a G7 meeting today, Sunday, to discuss the attacks. And they have heard widespread condemnation for most of the G7 nations already publicly stating they're condemning Iran for the attack. So, it does seem as if it is all eyes on the prime minister and his very small war cabinet to decide their next step.

But I get the very significant impression Israel's allies really feel they came through this OK, and there isn't any need at this stage to escalate tensions by going back at it directly with Iran. That is an entirely different assessment, potentially from what Israel will make of it all.

ANDERSON: And Israel has very vocally applauded the efforts of the U.S., the U.K., and France, which it says was involved in the defense of Israeli territory overnight, not necessarily name checking regional, let's call them, partners, but we certainly do know that the region there were -- you know, countries around this region who were involved to a degree.

Let me bring in Paula Hancocks at this point. Paula what are you hearing around the region? Let's start with very specifically Iran and the perspective from there on what was an unprecedented five-hour wave of attacks towards Israeli territory.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, what we've been hearing from Tehran itself is that this was in retaliation, a direct revenge for what happened on April 1st when there was that strike on the consulate in Damascus in Syria, where seven were killed, two of them revolutionary guard commanders. Israel didn't claim responsibility, but Tehran certainly holds them responsible.

And we heard from the supreme leader saying that an attack on their consulate in Syrian is effectively an attack on their home soil on Iran itself. And so, this is what they say was self-defense. It was a direct retaliation for what had happened on April 1st.

Now, we've got a couple of front pages here from Iranian newspapers. This is the Iran, and it says the start of the punishment. That's the main headline. You can see the image there. That's the image of what state media calls an Israeli-affiliated container ship being taken by Revolutionary Guards and directed into Iranian waters as well. They say, Iran's answer is legitimate and strong. Just to show you one more, this also has a very similar sentiment saying it's start of revenge.

But what we're hearing from the Iranian side is that this is legitimate. They have criticized the U.N. Security Council for not having responded when they say Israel carried out that strike, and they said that they have had to respond themselves. Becky.

AMANPOUR: We bring Nic in at this point. Nic, this attack, let's be quite frank, was well telegraphed, at least to those who have direct and certainly indirect links these days with Tehran. And I include the United States in that. What wasn't clear was how an attack would happen and where an attack could happen.

As I speak to sources around this region of the Gulf and the wider Middle East, there seem to be a sense that given the very limited impact that this unprecedented wave of attacks by missile and drones had on Israel, that could be it at this point as long as this is a controlled situation. Just how important will the Biden administration and its pressure on Netanyahu being now in not reacting in a way that would be seen as aggressive, offensive at this point to Tehran?

ROBERTSON: President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu is not in good shape at the moment. It's in absolute tatters over the way Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu's government has responded to the war in Gaza.

More than 33,000 Palestinians killed, many in the north of Gaza are on the brink of starvation, not enough aid getting in. That it's only been under absolute extreme and sustained pressure that the United States has been able to exert its will on Israeli government.


And I think we may very well be in a similar scenario with over the situation with Iran at the moment. Israel's way of responding and projecting its military capability, projecting and protecting security for Israelis. And let's not underestimate the psychological impact on Israelis, the 7th of October was a huge blow on the psyche of many people in this country because they didn't believe attackers could come over the border into their homes and kill them. They did. That was Hamas. More than 120 killed.

It's on the same count, you can say, that Iran has now for the first time come into this country with missiles, not managed to kill anyone this time, but it's shown a very, very strong resolve to try to do that. That impacts the psyche of Israel, and people will want to know that the government can protect itself. And the way that the government here operates, usually, is to show that it is the meanest and strongest and most determined fighter in the room, and that means going after anyone that attacks it to deter them from not doing that again.

So, Israel is, of course, going to want to continue to strike at IRGC commanders, be they in Syria or on Lebanon because they see them as a threat to their safety and security and they will not want Iran firing 300 missiles at them. The next time they do that and the way that Israel handles a scenario like that in the past is to take it on and respond with greater force. And of course, Iran says if they do that then they walk up the ante and return fire as well.

So, perhaps that's why the defense minister says the confrontation with Iran is not over. That is the way Israel, until now, deals with its enemies. It will go after them and show them that they shouldn't attack Israel.

What is it going to do now? The track record points out some sort of strike back.

ANDERSON: Nic, it's good to have you. Paula, you and I have been discussing already this morning and we'll continue to discuss the regional reaction to this unprecedented wave of attacks towards Israeli territory by Iran last night.

The reaction is one of concern, significant concern and a real appeal for de-escalation at this point. Nobody around this region wants this escalating in any way. To both of you, thank you.

Well, U.S. forces intercepted more than 70 one-way attack drones and at least three ballistic missiles according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Those missiles were intercepted by U.S. Navy warships in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. U.S. fighter jets were also part of the western response to Iran's attack on Saturday. Shooting down drones launched towards Israel according, to another U.S. official. The U.S. forces do not appear to have been targeted in Iran's attack on Israel. CNN's Jennifer Hansler joins us now from Washington, D.C. And what is the perspective there, Jennifer, given what we now know to have happened and what was this five-hour wave of attacks?

JENNIFER HANSLER, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT REPORTER: Well, Becky, we know that President Biden is telling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that they should consider this a win, that the Israeli forces were able to show their strength in this counterattack from Iran, and we also know that President Biden urged Prime Minister Netanyahu not to further escalate it. He said the U.S. would not support Israel in any sort of offensive moves against Iran here.

So, we are seeing the U.S. trying to tamp down the temperature here, they are trying stop any further escalation, because they're incredibly concerned about the situation spiraling out of control.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken put out a statement this evening. He said he would be speaking with allies and partners in the region and around the world in coming hours and days. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that they condemn the strikes by Iran, and they do not want to see this escalate further. But he also pointed out that the U.S. would continue to stand with Israel defensively, that that support was ironclad.

Becky, I want point out the president, we really saw him taking on this sort of commander-in-chief in wartime role this evening. He rushed back from Delaware, where he was spending the weekend to meet with his national security team.


We saw these images coming out of the situation room of that hours- long meeting, where he had Austin and Blinken, the CIA director, the commander of the joint chiefs of staff. And we know they were getting updates in real-time from the CENTCOM commander, Kurilla, who was just in Israel over the past few days. He was providing them updates as these Iranian retaliatory strikes were being carried out.

As you noted, the U.S. did participate in intercepting these missiles and drones. And so, now, they are going to be turning to the diplomatic front to try to stem any sort of regional conflagration here, Becky.

ANDERSON: Many will see this, Jennifer, as a distraction to what is the catastrophic situation in Gaza. And the pressure, not least from the United States now, for a ceasefire, albeit likely only temporary at this point, in order, for one, to get the hostages released and two, to ratchet up that humanitarian aid. We know that U.S. aid, for example, has said the north of Gaza is in or on the verge of famine.

Given what has gone on now for the past, what, 72, maybe 96 hours, the telegraphing of an imminent attack by Tehran on Israeli assets. That is now over the Iranian said has concluded. We await to see what the Israelis do next. But should they do nothing in an offensive posture? Surely now the focus needs to be back on Gaza. And to that point, we are just reporting now that Israel says that Hamas has rejected the outline of a ceasefire and hostage release deal with Hamas repeating its original demands, a permanent ceasefire, and all Israeli assets out of Gaza. What are you hearing at state on this?

HANSLER: Well, this just came in, Becky. So, we've yet to hear any from the U.S. side, but this is likely to be seen as a really big step back. We had seen Hamas starting to make some moves towards rejecting that permanent ceasefire in the outset, they were suggesting they would be willing to negotiate that later in a further phase. And we were seeing the Israeli side as well, showing some flexibility on some of their demands.

So, there was a sense, at least at certain points, that there was perhaps a window for a ceasefire, at least a temporary one, to be reached. And now, to see Hamas going back to these original demands, which Israel said, what was a no-go is likely to be seen as a really big drawback by the United States, which has been so involved in these negotiations.

And as you point out, Becky, there was so much pressure by the U.S. on the Israelis in recent days and weeks about the ongoing offensive in Gaza. We have seen the administration ratcheting up its rhetorical pressure on Israel, and that really came to a head after that deadly strike on the World Central Kitchen convoy a couple of weeks ago, where we saw the president come out really strongly against Prime Minister Netanyahu and say, you need to change your conduct here. You need to protect civilians. You need to get more humanitarian aid in, or there will be changes in U.S. policy.

So, it will be really interesting to watch and see whether that comes back to the fore after this Iranian counterstrike, Becky.

ANDERSON: Good to have you. Jennifer Hansler in Washington, D.C.

Well, you're watching CNN. This is Breaking News. I'm Becky Anderson here in Abu Dhabi in our Middle East programming hub in the Gulf.

Still ahead, global reaction coming into Iran's attack on Israel. We'll tell you what is being said in Brussels and in Beijing.



ANDERSON: Well, reaction to Iran's unprecedented attack on Israelis coming in from across Europe.

The European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell condemned the attack as unacceptable and said, "This is an unprecedented escalation and a grave threat to regional security." The French foreign minister said, that country strongly condemned Iran's actions against Israel. He also said France remains committed to Israel's security. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned Iran's "reckless attack against Israel" and said the U.K. will continue to support Israel's security along with that of regional partners Jordan and Iraq. In the Netherlands, the Dutch prime minister said the attack is very concerning and warned against further escalation towards Israel.

Meantime, Saudi Arabia. expressing concern over, and I quote them here, "the recent military escalations in the region." In a statement, the Saudi Foreign Ministry urged restraint, warning of dire consequences if the situation worsens. Qatar, also releasing a statement a short while ago, expressing "deep concern "over the "developments" in the region and has called on all parties to cease escalation, calm tensions, and exercise maximum restraint.

Joining me live from Tel Aviv is Gideon Levy, Haaretz columnist and former advisor to the former Israeli president, Shimon Peres. It's good to have you. And I think it's really important just to take a moment to consider the reaction there from western countries name- checking Iran, very specifically throwing their support behind Israel and its security.

And the region where I am here broadcasting from, which is that of the Gulf, where you see the Saudis and the Qataris talking about the need for de-escalation around this region, calling for restraint, calling for calm.

Gideon, what do you make of what we have seen and heard over the past 12, 15 hours, including not least, of course, what was a five-hour unprecedented attack on Israeli or towards Israeli territory by Iran?

GIDEON LEVY, COLUMNIST, HAARETZ AND FORMER ADVISOR TO SHIMON PERES: I think in many ways it was an historic night. Things changed in the Middle East tonight. You didn't mention also Jordan who was part of stopping this attack.

And we see at least a chance for a new Middle East, but I just hope that Israel will not spoil it. Because now the main challenge is to prevent a counterattack by Israel on Iran, because then we are in a new game, then we are in a regional war, which nobody can foresee how will it end. It's the worst of all scenarios.


ANDERSON: There is clear pressure by the United States, not least, on Israel to see this as a concluded attack, as described by Iran itself, and as a win for Israel. The fact that there was no real impact, 99 percent of these missiles were intercepted by Israel and with the support of its allies.

You say you hope that there will be no counter-attack to this retaliation. You hope that's the case. What do you expect to see from Prime Minister Netanyahu at this point?

LEVY: First of all, it really depends more on President Biden that you mentioned. It depends a lot now on the pressure. The Americans have now a huge leverage over Israel because we have to face it, the United States saved Israel tonight, both the United States and the defense systems of Israel, obviously, but Israel was saved tonight from, imagine yourself, all those rockets and missiles do arrive, Israel will work up now to a different world this morning. So, I would expect Prime Minister Netanyahu to be now more listening and obeying to the American administration after we were practically saved, partly by the United States.

The question is if Israel can just ignore this, and, you know, again, as usual in Israel, the domestic arena is the major one, and Israelis, as usual, will ask for revenge for this attack, which may be deserves a revenge, but will lead us to a horrible reality.

ANDERSON: You're on the editorial board at Haaretz. How will your media organization and be pursuing its narrative going forward? You know, just describe very specifically what you expect to say.

LEVY: First of all, the board will be in two and a half hours. So, I don't know. And usually, my voice is a little different than the others. But I can just tell you, Becky, that I thought and I wrote this morning before they take started, but when it was really on its way that the assassination two weeks ago in Damascus was unnecessary because you see the outcome.

This assassination of this Iranian general has nothing to do with justice or with morality, it has to do with being clever, and it wasn't clever in this sensitive time to go for another assassination which brought Iran to this horrible attack.

And, you know, many times, Israel is acting without thinking about the day after. That's a very good example. The fact that we have this wonderful, excellent, unbelievable, imaginary defense system saves us. But, you know, why was it needed at all? What would have happened if Israel would restrain and not assassinate this general?

ANDERSON: He may be emboldened tonight, but is Benjamin Netanyahu, to your mind, strengthened by what has happened overnight? And I'm talking about his position politically here briefly.

LEVY: You see, Becky, we are right now in the eye of the storm. We cannot measure it after a night like this. On one hand, Israel is very proud that it was saved this night. On the other side, people have to ask questions about why did we get there at all? And was it really uninventable? Was it really so, I mean, inevitable that we couldn't act differently? And what is our responsibility to what happened in the last half a year? So, you cannot judge.

Netanyahu is right now the prime minister, and there is no challenge because he has a coalition in the parliament which is quite solid. The street thinks differently, but in Israel, the parliament votes for the following of a government. And we will have to continue with Netanyahu, at least for the short future.

ANDERSON: Good to have you, Gideon. Always a pleasure. Thank you, Gideon Levy.

LEVY: Thank you, Becky.

ANDERSON: Still to come, CNN's Christiane Amanpour joins us next to discuss what is going on around this region after Iran's direct attack on Israel.



ANDERSON: Welcome back. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi. Time here is just after 10:30 in the morning. Israel says nearly all of the 300 or so Iranian missiles and drones that were launched overnight were taken down by the IDF and their partners in inverted comments.

The attack lasted approximately five hours. U.S. President Joe Biden spoke to the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and he urged him to avoid escalating the situation further. But speaking on army radio, Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Israel Katz, has reiterated comments that if Iran attacks inside Israel, his country will strike inside Iran.

Well, Israel had been preparing for Iran to strike. Here's what Mr. Netanyahu said on Saturday, right before the attacks.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Citizens of Israel, in recent years and especially in recent weeks, Israel has been preparing for a direct attack by Iran. Our defensive systems are deployed. We are ready for any scenario, both defensively and offensively. The State of Israel is strong. The IDF is strong. The public is strong.


ANDERSON: Well, let's bring in Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour. Christiane, you just heard there from the Israeli prime minister. This was a wave, an unprecedented five-hour wave of attacks. Defended not just by the IDF, of course, but by Israel's "partners." And Gideon Levy, who is on the editorial board of the Israeli media organization, Haaretz, has very specifically said, Israel was saved by its partners and very specifically by the United States and its support overnight. Your thoughts?


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Becky, look, let's be clear. In 45 years since the Islamic Republic and the antagonism between Israel and Iran, there has never been an attack by Iran inside Israel.

So, this does actually cross a threshold, and the actual future right now rests on whether Israel will listen to the United States and not retaliate for the retaliation. It was a massive aerial attack in terms of hundreds of drones, cruise missiles, and other surface-to-surface missiles that flew from Iran over various other territories, including apparently some from Yemen, some from Hezbollah, et cetera.

It appears, according to reports, that Israel has responded in Lebanon on Hezbollah targets, if that is confirmed, and we will see whether there's any further retaliation. The United States has said since October 7th that while it stands with Israel and its right to defend from what happened on October 7, it had really implored, in fact, pleaded, begged, and sent all its officials, military, diplomatic, CIA, the president himself, to warn Israel not to escalate, because there had been no intelligence supporting any claim that Iran had anything to do with October 7th.

So, what you have right now is having taken the action it did in Damascus early April, for we don't know why, they obviously don't say that they did, except that then they say that Israel believes it struck a military building of Quds forces. Iran says it was also a diplomatic base, and it was wrongly struck. Obviously, that would be Iran's position.

At the United Nations, Iran, in its statement last night, said that it was abiding by the provisions for self-defense from so-called Article 51. And as you've mentioned, as you've reported, it says, this is -- this matter should now be considered concluded, but if Israel "makes a mistake," again, Iran will react even more strongly. Those are the words of Iran and said that Iran is telling the United States in big capital letters, you know, must stay away from this.

I think in terms of the defense, Israel has hugely sophisticated anti- missile defense, the Iron Dome, all sorts of other things that the United States has provided it with over decades. And if you see what -- you know, what Ukraine can do with barrage of Russian and Iranian drones and Russian missiles and crews, Ukraine has been able to knock down the majority of those. It is not surprising that Israel and the United They were able to intercept the vast majority and that damage according to Israel has been very, very limited.

ANDERSON: Joe Biden very pointedly said don't to Tehran. Tehran did attack, albeit telegraphing this attack some days ahead of time, not necessarily saying how and where but certainly, suggesting this attack would come. How would you describe the way that the Biden administration has dealt with this period?

This is certainly a somewhat of a distraction to what is going on in Gaza. And we know the U.S. putting an enormous amount of pressure on Israel to get a ceasefire deal concluded there, albeit a temporary ceasefire deal in order to get the hostages out and get the humanitarian aid in. How do you perceive the way that this is all being dealt with?

AMANPOUR: You know, Becky, certainly President Biden, you know they all say -- that they, you know, sing from the same script, right? They all say we stand with Israel in our -- in defense. We will help defend Israel. And then, obviously, they tell all the others, all the actors in the region and Iran particularly with the so-called axis of resistance that it started back in the early '80s in response to Israel's invasion of Lebanon back then. It's tried to keep -- you know, it's tried its best to keep this all from escalating.

If you remember, Iran did in fact, through its proxies, kill three American service people based in Jordan. The United States was very clear and it responded and it apparently killed 45 of those people who, whoever they were, Iranians, Iraqis, militias, and there has been no more action between Iran and the United States in that region since then.


Up until now, also, the Houthis had backed off from their, you know, heavy action in terms of attacking and threatening ships in the Red Sea right after October 7th. This now, you know, brings it back to a boil. And it really is up to the United States and Israel to decide whether this is one and done by Iran in response to what Israel did, and we still do not know why.

What was the (INAUDIBLE)? What was the actual reason for Israel striking that facility in Damascus other than a target of opportunity, so to speak? What was the reason? And clearly, just as Hamas knew, I don't know whether it understood the ferociousness of the response after October 7th, Israel clearly would have known that there would have been a response to what happened in Damascus. And if it didn't know, Iran was telegraphing it every which way for the last 13 days.

So, this is something that's almost like planned. It was very fortunate that all the defenses worked. Israel has and the United States have, you know, much more competent and heavily armed, developed, and modern military machine, although Iran has plenty of missiles and drones, it does not have an air force of any note, and, you know, it doesn't really have a sea force that is threatening. But -- so, this is where we are.

The problem here is, does Netanyahu listen to President Biden? And up until now, it has been very questionable. In fact, many allies who are very, very concerned, Israeli allies and U.S. allies, have been quite shocked and surprised throughout the six months of this war on Gaza since the horrors of October 7th that to them it appears that this Israeli government is not listening.

And we have heard many, many times that these negotiations for a ceasefire have moved, as you've just been reporting, one step forward, three steps back. The latest, frankly, before this, was even Israelis leaking that their side of the negotiations were slow rolling it.

So, this is a really, really difficult moment for the people whose families are still in Gaza, the Israelis who are still in Gaza, it's horrendous for the 33,000 plus Gazans who've been killed. It is catastrophic as well for the famine that has set in, according to the United States and the pictures we see. This is a catastrophic situation.

And as yet, we see no joined up full process to stop it going on now, but even more important, for any day after reality. Very, very difficult.

ANDERSON: And that lack of a political pathway forward is, as a number of people I've spoken to in the past 24 hours suggested, is really aggravating the situation even further at present. It is extremely complicated. There is real concern. Christiane, thank you, real concern around the region where I am, profound concern about what could happen next, and appeals for real de-escalation at this point.

We will see what the Israeli response to this retaliatory attack from Tehran will be in the hours to come. Well, as we wait to see how Israel responds to these unprecedented attacks by Iran.

We are seeing more Israeli politicians reacting. Netanyahu's far-right minister for internal security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and remember what his job is, internal security, posting on X, impressive defense so far. Now, we need a crushing attack. Well, compare that with Israel's President Isaac Herzog posting, bless you dear soldiers and commanders of the IDF and IAF. Bless the coalition of nations led by the U.S. and @POTUS. Bless my sisters and brothers, the people of Israel for their exceptional show of resilience. Together the forces of good will overcome the forces of evil.

Well, still to come. Some U.S. lawmakers are calling for more support for Israel in the wake of Iran's attacks. Details on that are just ahead.



ANDERSON: Israel is weighing its response after Iran launched more than 300 missiles and drones towards Israel overnight. 99 percent of those were shot down by Israel's military and their "partners," according to the IDF.

These pictures show some of the Israeli pilots returning to the Nevatim Air Base in the Negev Desert. The IDF says the base was struck by the only Iranian missiles that did reach Israel but that only caused light structural damage and the base is, they say, still running.

Fawaz Gerges is a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, good friend of this show, and the author of "Making the Arab World." He joins us now live via Skype from Brussels. Fawaz, good to have you. What is your assessment of what we have witnessed overnight?

FAWAZ GERGES, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, I mean, I think the first point is that Iran has delivered its message. It was an unprecedented attack. Benjamin Netanyahu and the war cabinet dared Iran to retaliate and Iran stood up.

I think what Iran is trying to do is to restore its balance without really triggering a direct war either with the United States and/or Israel.

But, Becky, we need to tell our viewers this is a precipitated crisis. This is a man's made crisis. It was Benjamin Netanyahu who provoked Iran by attacking its consulate in Syria and killed six top commanders. Again, we need to tell your viewers that Israel has been killing top Iranian scientists and commanders and diplomats for quite a few years inside Iran itself. And Iran has really avoided a direct clash because Iranian leadership fears that Israel is trying to drag it into war with the United States. So -- but the attack on its consulate in Syria was an attack on Iranian sovereignty, was an attack on the Iranian state, and the Iranian leadership could not afford, not to respond and try to restore their deterrence.


ANDERSON: Fawaz, if Iran's retaliation was inevitable, and let's be quite frank, well telegraphed around this region and to both the U.S. and Israel, Israel's response to this is not inevitable. Will Benjamin Netanyahu listen to U.S. President Joe Biden?

The U.S. has thrown its support behind Israel's defense overnight very, very visibly. Gideon Levy has said to me that Israel survived overnight because of the role played by the U.S. and its other partners, as it were, around this region. So, the question is, isn't it, what happens next?

GERGES: You know, Becky, you asked earlier your panel about Joe Biden's strategy towards Israel and the Israel onslaught in Gaza. I think -- and I was really trying to come in, even though I was not part of your panel. I mean, what has been the overarching strategic goal of Joe Biden since October the 7th was to really prevent the escalation of the war from Gaza into neighboring countries.

I think if you ask me bluntly and critically, the Biden administration strategy has failed and has failed miserably. That is, Joe Biden is sleepwalking the United States into another war in the Middle East. Not only Joe Biden has filed to influence the decision of Netanyahu and his war cabinet, in fact, Netanyahu has played Joe Biden, has outmaneuvered Joe Biden.

Did Israel consult with the United States when it attacked the Iranian consulate in Syria? Did the U.S. criticize the provocation by Netanyahu? And yet, Joe Biden now says, we have an ironclad commitment to Israel's security. I understand that, Becky. I understood that the United States support Israel, but at what cost and what are the limits. And is the United States willing to be dragged into another war in the Middle East because of Benjamin Netanyahu's both political interests and strategic interests as well?

ANDERSON: Fawaz, it's good to have you. Thank you very much indeed for your analysis. Fawaz Gerges here on CNN. We'll be right back.



ANDERSON: Israel's war cabinet is weighing its response to Iran's aerial attack as strikes appear to have stopped for now. The Israeli military says 99 percent of the more than 300 projectiles fired at Israel by Iran overnight were intercepted. And only a "small number" of ballistic missiles actually reached Israel. One of the officials says U.S. President Joe Biden told the Israeli prime minister he should actually see the win as -- sorry, the night as a win.

Well, reaction from Capitol Hill has been swift following the attacks. Mitch McConnell released a statement encouraging President Biden to show support for Israel by leaving an international effort to make Iran pay for its actions.

The Senate minority leader writes "President Biden has insisted that America's commitment to Israel's security is ironclad. It is time for his administration to match words with actions. Iran's leaders must know the things they value most are at risk." McConnell also urged Biden to give Israel the time and space to "finish the job against Hamas."

Well, I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi. I will be back with more of what is our breaking news coverage after this short break. That after a night when Iran fires more than 300 missiles, drones and ballistic missiles, towards the territory of Israel. What happens next is what we will discuss.