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Israel Says, 99 Percent of Iranian Missiles and Drones Shot Down; Celebrations in Iran After Attacks on Israel; Biden Speaks With Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu After Strikes. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired April 14, 2024 - 03:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Becky Anderson coming to you live from Abu Dhabi.

Israel says the IDF and its partners had a 99 percent success rate, shooting down Iranian drones and missiles launched at Israel. This is what it all looked like hours ago before the attacks apparently subsided.

Well, the IDF says more than 300 missiles and drones were fired on Israel overnight. Those few that actually got through hit an airbase in Southern Israel causing some minor damage.

Israel says that the U.S., Britain and France also acted during the strikes and that some of the missiles were fired 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.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu reacted on social media, saying, we have intercepted, we have contained, and we shall win.

Israel and Jordan have now reopened their airspaces, however airlines still avoiding flying over Iraq and Iran. Well, as frequent travelers know, that air route over Iraq and Iran is a vital corridor for global commercial travel.

Meanwhile, inside parts of Iran, celebrations broke out on the streets in some parts of Tehran after word of the attack got out.

For more, we're joined by Nic Robertson in Jerusalem and Paula Hancocks, who is with me here in Abu Dhabi.

Nic, let's start with you. This has been an unprecedented, historic night for Israel, an unprecedented wave, five hours' worth of strikes from Iran, either from Iranian territory or elsewhere, towards Israeli territory.

The question is how does Israel respond to that? Is it clear? NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It isn't. I think there are two people that we've heard from, Israeli officials in the past hour or so, who sort of characterized the different ways of looking at this. President Isaac Herzog, who spoke to the relief, I think, that everyone feels that the air defenses worked so well, he congratulated the IDF, congratulated Air Force, congratulated the intelligence services, thanked the White House, thanked President Biden.

So, that gave you a sense of the relief, I think, and the sense a job well done in the face of extreme adversity in a night where the Rubicon was crossed in terms of conflict, the latent simmering conflict that has sort of gone between Israel and Iran without the either one striking each other directly happened through proxies or striking the other in another country.

Then you have what the foreign minister said, doubling down on his comments a couple of days ago. He said, if Iran strikes us, it will show, A, an escalation of their intent, and we will strike back. And it's something the prime minister had said and the defense minister has inferred as well.

And the foreign minister is saying that those comments still hold, which says, on the other hand, clearly, that Israel plans to respond to Iran's attack last night. In essence, Israel's way of fending off future attacks is to try to defer -- deter by using a greater level of force back.

Now, can Israel's allies persuade it not to? The track record on that in the war in Gaza, where more than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed against the better judgment and advice of President Biden to Prime Minister Netanyahu, the track record indicates that Iran may well go back -- go and strike Iran back.


When, how? That's not clear.

ANDERSON: Let me bring Paula Hancocks in at this stage, Nic, stand by. I mean, the calculation is an interesting one here. Israel will certainly not want to see an emboldened Iran off the back of this, nor indeed will the U.S. administration. But what they don't see is an inevitability to the way that Israel might respond.

This retaliation was inevitable, and indeed, Tehran telegraphed it very widely to this region and beyond.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They did, yes. And this, of course, was the first ever attack that Iran had launched against Israel from its own territory. But, of course, once they've done that the first time, it then becomes easier to do it a second time, a third time.

So, there's certainly a very clear escalation that has happened here. They telegraphed they were going to do it. They have also said that if there is military aggression, as they call it, from Israel, then they will do it again. They have said that the response will be stronger and more resolute.

And we've heard from Israel itself saying that they will be responding to this, at least the foreign minister saying that, as Nic was mentioning. So, of course, this is the concern at this point that you have the telegraphing, but then Tehran has carried through with this threat.

And it has done what it calls self-defense. It claims that since that consulate attack on the Iranian building in Damascus, in Syria, they say that under the U.N. Charter, they are able to have this self- defense. And they say that they had warned it would happen, and then they did.

ANDERSON: What's been the response regionally?

HANCOCKS: Less than we have seen in the rest of the world. Certainly, when it comes to the west, they have been very clear in condemning Iran. That is not what you're seeing here in the region, of course, because it is far more sensitive. There's more of a diplomatic tightrope that many of these countries are having to walk.

But we're hearing from some of the countries, Saudi Arabia, for example, who has relations with the US, who now has relations with Iran, who, if the Biden administration is to be believed, will have relations with Israel, so a very difficult position. But they have said, quote, the Kingdom urges all parties to exercise maximum restraint and to protect the region of its people from the dangers of war.

You have a similar sentiment from Qatar, talking of their deep concern. There's no mention of either country. There's no pointing of fingers of this is who is to blame. There's no condemnation. There's concern that this has escalated and there's a call for a de-escalation on all sides.

ANDERSON: If the Biden administration had been for six months trying to avoid a regional escalation, sadly, many will say that is effectively what they have got at this stage. Is there an opportunity out of this great challenge? Nic, if you're still with us, many will say there is.

What's the thinking amongst those that you have been speaking to about what happens next?

ROBERTSON: It's still -- what is held out there for Israel is an off- ramp in Gaza, a deal where Israel can have peace. But this is something that's over the horizon for the Netanyahu government. It's not something that they perhaps believe in and certainly don't want to reach for it.

I think in terms of trying to de-escalate the broader tensions here, we circle back to the position that we've been until yesterday over Gaza, which is the assessment is that, by and large, the majority of people in Israel don't want Prime Minister Netanyahu running the country, but do want him to take a tough approach in terms of security, in terms of making sure Hamas cannot attack them again, and potentially they may. We haven't seen any polling, it's far too soon, may want a similar tone when it comes to Iran.

It really seems, if you try to step back a little bit from the situation at the moment, until there's a change of leadership here, those countries in the region that could partner with Israel and help establish a broader peace in the region can be partners with Israel to do that, cannot do it with the current government. And I think that's where we still stand.

A new dynamic has entered over the weekend.


But in terms of moving forward in the bigger picture, it doesn't really change where we're at. It is more dangerous, though, beyond any doubt in this region.

ANDERSON: Nic Robertson is in Jerusalem, Paula Hancocks with me here in Abu Dhabi, both of you, thank you.

Well, following Iran's attacks on Israel, U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the phone. Mr. Biden told Netanyahu that Israel should consider Saturday a win, as Iran attacks were mostly unsuccessful. And he said a U.S. assessment revealed that almost all of the drones and missiles had been knocked out of the sky.

But the U.S. president also made it clear that America will not participate in any offensive operations against Iran, according to a U.S. official. And in the coming hours, President Biden is expected to meet with G7 leaders to coordinate a united diplomatic response to Iran.

CNN's Jennifer Hansler joins me now from Washington, D.C. What more do you have, Jennifer?

JENNIFER HANSLER, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT PRODUCER: Well, Becky, we are going to see a really big diplomatic push in coming of hours and days by a number of members of the Biden administration. As you noted, the president will be convening with his G7 partners in the coming hours to discuss that approach.

We have seen Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on the phone with Israeli counterpart five times since that Israeli strike on, or to the Damascus facility, including in recent hours. And we understand that Secretary Austin asked Defense Minister Gallant to give the U.S. a heads-up on any sort of strikes or moves that Israel intends to take.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken put out a statement this evening. He said he would be on the phone with regional and world counterparts in the coming hours and days to discuss this situation.

So, there is really going to be this concerted push to try to ensure that there's not a further escalation of the conflict there in the region. That was, of course, one of top concerns going into the war six months ago. And it remains a key concern right now. This was perhaps one the highest points of tension that we have seen over the past six months for this situation to just spiral out of control.

So, there is going to be a lot of work on that diplomatic front to try to ensure that this is the end of that move.

At the same time, the U.S. is making clear that they are going stand with Israel defensively. That was key in the Biden statement, in the Austin statement and the Blinken statement this evening, Becky.

ANDERSON: And that important, of course, because many have seen, and we continue to see the pressure from the Biden administration on Israel for a ceasefire, albeit temporary, in Gaza. Important then to note that Israel has in the past hours said that Hamas has rejected the outline of a ceasefire and a hostage release deal and Hamas is repeating its demands that Israeli assets get out of Gaza and that there is a permanent ceasefire.

That is important news and the timing of this important as we consider what has happened over the past, what, 12 hours.

HANSLER: Absolutely. And this is likely to be seen as a big step back by the Biden administration. Of course, the U.S. has been intimately involved in these negotiations. We have seen the CIA director go into the region to be involved in these negotiations with Qatar, with Egypt, who are engaging with Hamas to try to secure this deal.

And the fact that Hamas has gone back to its original demands is going to a blow to all of these negotiators. There had been some movement that suggested flexibility by both Hamas and Israel, and now that seems to have disappeared.

And you'll note, Becky, that the Biden administration had been really trying to rely on this ceasefire as kind of a key to all of its priorities. They saw that as a way to get all the hostages out, as way get humanitarian aid into the besieged Gaza Strip. But at the same time, they have become increasingly more vocal about

the need for Israel to do more despite or regardless of the ceasefire. They say more must be done. and we saw a really -- see that come to the fore really, really sharply when there was that deadly strike on a World Central Kitchen convoy a few weeks ago. The president came out very strongly with Prime Minister Netanyahu and said more must be done regardless. So there's a lot at play here, Becky, that we'll be watching for in the coming days.

ANDERSON: CNN's Jennifer Hansler hands up on the story for you, thank you.

Well, we just heard from the chief of staff of Iran's armed forces. General Bagheri said that it sent a message to the U.S. through the Swiss embassy.


That message included a warning that if the U.S. cooperates with Israel in their possible next actions, its bases will be, quote, dealt with. He noted that from Iran's perspective, the military operation against Israel has concluded. However, he emphasized that the Iranian Armed Forces remain on high alert and are prepared to act if necessary.

We'll stay with this reaction to Iran's unprecedented attack on Israel, at least towards Israel, is pouring in from around the world.

Our breaking news coverage continues in a moment.


ANDERSON: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his first public statement after Iran's attacks on the country, vowing to Israelis that and together we shall win. Israel's military says 99 percent of the more than 300 missiles and drones fired by Iran were intercepted by Israel and its partners. There have been no reports of injuries suffered directly through Iranian strikes.

Iran says the attack on Israel was self-defense after Israel struck their consulate in Damascus on April 1st. Tehran calling its retaliation and response to, quote, repeated military aggressions of the Zionist regime.

But speaking this morning, Israel's foreign minister reiterated earlier comments that if Iran attacks inside Israel, Israel will strike inside Iran.

The U.N. secretary general condemning Iran's actions and calling for all parties to use restraint. Global reaction to the attack continues to come in. The Chancellor of Austria, Karl Nehammer, condemned Iran and pledged to support Israel's security. The E.U.'s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, condemned the attack as unacceptable, saying, quote, this is an unprecedented escalation and a grave threat to regional security.


The Dutch prime minister said the attack is very concerning. Mark Rutte warned against further escalation towards Israel.

Joining me now from Jerusalem is Yaakov Katz. He's a senior columnist and editor with The Jerusalem Post and a senior fellow with the Jewish People Policy Institute. Yakov, it's good to have you.

So, how should we expect Israel to respond to what was a five-hour unprecedented, historic attack by Iran on Israel with drones and ballistic missiles?

YAAKOV KATZ, SENIOR COLUMNIST AND EDITOR, THE JERUSALEM POST: You're 100 percent right, Becky, this is a historic unprecedented direct Iranian attack against the state of Israel. We've all grown around the world accustomed to the attacks by the proxies, the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

But this is really the first time that we've seen such an assault against Israel by regime in Iran that has repeatedly over the years called to wipe Israel off the map. And I think that the dilemma right now that the Israeli government led by Netanyahu is facing is how do we respond?

On the one hand, they were able to intercept 99 percent, the Israeli military saying, of all of those drones and missiles that were fired at Israel. No one was really hurt. There was one child that was hit of shrapnel. But, overall, that five hour assault was pretty much contained.

On the other hand, if you don't respond, what lesson are you teaching Iran? And Iran might think that they can get away with this and they can do this again in the future.

And I think, Becky, one more word on this. There is a difference in Israel between the October 6th Israel and the October 7th Israel. To think that you can contain this, that's October 6th thinking. And we saw what happens when after years of missile defense in Gaza, what happened on October 7th with the Hamas massacre, if we don't retaliate now, are we setting ourselves up potentially for another October 7th in the future from Iran?

ANDERSON: Yaakov, I very specifically asked you how you expect Israel to respond rather than should Israel respond to get a sense from you of where the country's thinking is as things stand because Israel will be and is being encouraged to ensure that it doesn't escalate the already very, very critical and delicate situation that this region is in at present.

So, is Benjamin Netanyahu and his government listening to the sort of pressure they are likely to be under from the Biden administration now about how they respond?

KATZ: There's definite pressure and Israel is so far is holding back its fire and has yet to retaliate. I think that there's a spectrum, Becky. On the one hand, Israel could attack, for example, just the base or bases from which those drones or ballistic missiles were launched from Iran and keep its response very limited and contained to the launch pad of the attack last night against Israel.

On the other hand, I think there might even be legitimacy for a wider offensive against Iran that takes out more assets of the Iranian military.

But we can't ignore the fact that what we saw last night was a regional collective partnership. We saw the involvement of the Jordanians, of the Americans, of the British, and potentially other countries in the region who helped defeat this Iranian attack to now launch a widespread offensive against Iran would potentially undermine that regional partnership, and that's what Israel is a bit cautious with right now.

ANDERSON: Yes. And there have been statements of profound concern from the region that I am in about, what has happened and about what happens next.

Yaakov Katz, it's always a pleasure. Thank you very much indeed for your analysis from Jerusalem this morning.

Well, still to come. Israel and its allies are looking at their options then after a night of Iranian air attacks. We'll bring you the very latest on that after this.



ANDERSON: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. The United States believes the immediate threat of Iranian attacks on Israel has subsided, at least for now. In fact, Israeli airspace has been reopened and Ben Gurion International Airport has renewed its activities.

Now, that is after Tehran fired waves of missiles and drones towards Israel for five hours overnight. In that time, the skies over Israel lit up with the explosions of destroyed missiles. IDF Spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari says Israel and its allies intercepted 99 percent of the more than 300 projectiles fired at Israel by Iran.

This is the first time that Iran has directly struck Israel after years of threats and we are getting a breakdown of the numbers. These are what they are as we understand them. Around 170 drones, more than 30 cruise missiles and more than 120 ballistic missiles launched at Israel by Iran.

And we've just heard from the chief of staff of Iran's armed forces, General Bagheri said that it sent a message to the U.S. through the Swiss Embassy. That message included a warning that if the U.S. cooperates with Israel in their possible next actions, its bases will be, quote, dealt with.

Bagheri noted that, from Iran's perspective, the military operation against Israel has concluded. However, he emphasized that the Iranian Armed Forces remain on high alert and are prepared to act if necessary.

Let's bring in Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour. What do you make of what we have just heard by the Iranians?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice over): Becky, I think that is what we expected to hear. It's what they telegraphed from the beginning. It's what they said in their statement. As these drones and missiles were launched from Iran, it took several hours between the statement and the arrival over the skies in that region.

They have particularly telegraphed over and again, from their perspective, this is a retaliation for the attack on their diplomatic mission in Damascus earlier this month. And they warned the United States not to get actively involved in any offensive action.


I would assume that they have, as you said, as a fact, they've talked through the Swiss contact, which is the only contact officially between Iran and the United States. And remember, Iran and Israel have no diplomatic relation, and nor does Iran and the United States officially, but they do have this contact, all to say that these messages have been sent through.

The United States knew pretty much what to expect, maybe even the extent of it. Perhaps it was bigger than they hoped it would be. It is, of course, the first time in 45 years since the Islamic Republic was formed in 1979, and the mounting tensions between Iran and Israel, that this has been now a direct attack.

But 99 percent of them were stopped, as you heard from Israel itself, very, very little damage. Sadly, one child has been damaged by shrapnel. But it could have been different.

They say they targeted specific military targets. I assume we're going to see the battle damage assessment once the Israelis are ready to show it and once satellite imagery can perhaps show it. But this is part of -- it's a horrible way to say it -- but the theater of the rising tensions in there, in that region since October 7th.

Iran was deemed not to have had any operational knowledge or planning of October 7th, both by Israeli intelligence and security officials and by the United States. Iran has been warned over and again not to get involved.

If you remember at the very beginning, Iran practically bent over backwards, saying this wasn't us, this was Hamas. But as this counteroffensive has mounted over the last six months, the pressure to do something has mounted.

And you've had certain activities of Iran proxies attacking Americans, attacking shipping in the Red Sea. America dealt with the death of three of its personnel, and there's been no more direct conflict.

Now, it has to be said that Israel has been waging a shadow war with Iran for many, many years. As you know, Israel has been either directly or through its proxies inside Iran on the ground taking care of various nuclear facilities, for instance, assassinations of nuclear scientists and that lot.

So, it has been a very dangerous proxy and shadow war for a long time. The question is now, what is the response? And the United States says there mustn't be a big offensive reaction. And the U.S. has said we're not going to take part in it.

ANDERSON: I mean, if this action by Iran was inevitable, how Israel responds now is not. That is your point, I think. Just how much pressure is the Biden administration really bringing to bear on Benjamin Netanyahu at this point?

Certainly, there is no ceasefire, not even a temporary ceasefire in Gaza at this point. And despite the fact that the Americans have been hugely supportive, critically supportive overnight in providing air defense. It is still ultimately in the ballpark of the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, his war cabinet, and his cabinet that involves a number of very right wing parliamentarians, one of whom is the national security head, Ben-Gvir, who has said today we need a crushing response to Iran.

AMANPOUR: Well, Itamar Ben-Gvir has been on the record saying things like that from the beginning, whether it's about Gaza, leveling Gaza, expelling the people, whether it's about Iran, whether it's about anything.

He is an extremist in that coalition, as is described by the United States and Israel's allies and the Israeli opposition, so too is Smotrich. And these are the people who are keeping Benjamin Netanyahu in power.

However, it has to be said that it is black and white evidentiary through Netanyahu's conversations with his own people, with diplomats, ever since he was elected prime minister, which I covered in 1996 for the first time, he has had it on for Iran.

And if you remember, right after the second war in Iraq, Israel also has tried to get the United States to do what it wants to do militarily against Iran. And so far, the United States has not done that. They don't believe that there is any currency in going to war against Iran, certainly not now, when the entire region is really at its worst point in living memory.


There is so much conflagration possible, so much catastrophe happening, that one more war in that region is going to be incredibly difficult. And that would definitely not be an easy war.

So, you heard your Jerusalem Post colleague, Yaakov, talking about how Israel might feel it needs to respond, because otherwise what message does that send?

On the other hand, if it does respond, it might fracture any kind of alliance it has had, certainly overnight, from regional neighbors as well as from other allies. Israel says that the vast majority of the missiles and drones were intercepted by its own anti-air defenses, so it's well-equipped. And it is obviously a nuclear power, and it's the most important power in the region.

But when it comes to the -- I guess the Arab and Muslim nation, Iran is the most developed part. It doesn't have an air force to talk about, but as you've seen, it really does have missiles and it does have drones.

ANDERSON: Christian Amanpour, our chief international anchor, coming to you from London, thank you very much indeed for joining us.

Still to come, the U.N. will meet in the coming hours to discuss Iran's attack on Israel and global reaction is pouring in.

Our breaking news coverage continues in a moment.


ANDERSON: The U.N. Security Council will meet later today in the wake of Iran's large-scale attack on Israel overnight. It comes after Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, wrote a letter requesting the meeting, quote, immediately to unequivocally condemn Iran.

Meanwhile, Israel's war cabinet is weighing its response to the 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 were by Iran were intercepted and only a, quote, small number of ballistic missiles actually reached Israel.

Well, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says we have intercepted, we have contained. Together, we shall win. And reactions to the strikes are coming in from across Europe for example, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, condemned the attack as unacceptable. The British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, says the U.K. will continue to support Israel's security.

Well, Maha Yahya is the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. She joins us now via Skype from the Lebanese capital.

And as you join us, I am seeing unconfirmed reports that the IDF is striking inside Lebanon after Hezbollah. Those are unconfirmed reports as things stand at present. But let's just get your assessment to where we stand today, Sunday morning local time, after what was a five-hour wave of attacks on Israel. This is unprecedented on the part of Tehran.

MAHA YAHYA, DIRECTOR, CARNERGIE MIDDLE EAST CENTER: Good morning, Becky. Thank you for having me with you. We're frankly standing at the edge of a dangerous precipice. We haven't seen such escalation in a very long time, if ever. Definitely, the retaliatory attacks by Iran yesterday are game changer.

We're no longer in the shadow or proxy war between those two. It began, obviously, with the direct attack on the Iranian consulate in Syria. But what happened yesterday really upped the ante even further.

So, we really are standing on a very dangerous precipice and much of it depends on how Israel reacts and whether it will carry out a responsive attack, another attack on Iranian territory proper, which effectively means, frankly, dragging the U.S. and almost everyone into an all-out regional conflict. And this is something we've been mourning around about for the last six months.

ANDERSON: I mean the calculation for Israel at this point will be very difficult. I mean, there have been more than 300 projectiles lobbed towards its territory. 99 percent of those Israel's Defense Forces and indeed the Americans say were deflected, defended against, but I think 300-plus projectiles, for the first time ever, at the hands of Iran, projected, thrown at, directed towards Israeli territory, is a huge escalation mark.

YAHYA: Absolutely, absolutely. No, no, it's a hugely escalation. But, frankly, I think the Iranians knew that most of this would be stopped, that the U.S., U.K., France, Jordan, and others would help in bringing down drones and those missiles. Effectively, 99 percent of them were brought down. Most of that was done outside of Israeli territory, outside Israeli airspace.

So, I think, frankly, I saw it more, it was a major escalatory move, but it was very much of a light show. And it's a drop in the bucket of what could really have happened, had all the other, I mean, as you saw, most of the drones and the missiles were coming from Iran proper and not from the -- Iran's various partners and proxies in region.

They stayed pretty much out of game to a certain extent. So, this is a drop in the buckets of could happen if this was to escalate into an all-out regional war. So, yes, it was a major escalation.

ANDERSON: Not least on that Northern Israeli front, which is the south of Lebanon, a country where you are at present. And we know the sort of firepower that Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militants group on the Lebanese side of the border, has.

And there are obviously real concerns about an uptick in the conflict spilling much further, because already we have seen that spillage, but spilling further on that northern front.

Maha, let me just read you what I've just got into CNN here. Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, on the very right wing of this Israeli government coalition, he had this to say just in the past few minutes, as I warned, giving up on Israel's red lines and chasing after Hamas for a deal, and he's talking about a deal in Gaza, of course, only decrease the chances of bringing everyone home. It is time to learn lessons, change direction, move on to Rafah now and restore full Israeli control all over the Gaza Strip.


What do you make of what you have just -- what I've just read, the words of Smotrich there?

YAHYA: This is expected. I mean, I would have expected no less from Smotrich, but also from much of the Israeli government. This government has been led with -- I mean, we've seen the horrors of Gaza. We're talking 33,000 dead. I don't need to recite the numbers of Gaza, 17,000, more than 17,000 kids, orphans, children, orphans, et cetera, et cetera, almost total destruction of the strip.

So, I expect no less from someone who's been driving much of this. We're seeing nobody is talking now about what's happening in the West Bank and the pogroms that are going on in the West Bank. So, this is to be expected from Smotricj and also probably from other members of this particular government. Quite honestly, they're unhinged in a certain way. They're driving for a military escalation at the time when only a diplomatic solution can walk us back from the precipice of an all out war across the region.

And it's a war that they cannot win. No one can win. Sorry, let me be clear. It's a war that no one can win. It's a war that will wreck havoc and destruction on everyone concerned, including Israelis and Palestinians and Lebanese and everyone else who gets involved, and Iranians.

So, what we really need now is for the U.S. to demonstrate its leverage, which now has become even more difficult, and push back against any kind of Iranian escalation by its collateral moves by Israel, per se, to bring the temperature down and start talking about a ceasefire, not only Gaza, but, frankly, it has to be a regional ceasefire.

We have a lot of concerns in Lebanon that once they're done with Gaza, they might turn towards Lebanon. Yesterday, by the way, I mean, in the midst of all of this, it wasn't covered in the news, there were attacks on Lebanon happening as the drones were flying into Israel or towards Israel.

ANDERSON: Yes. Maha, it's good to have you. You and I have been speaking regularly throughout this past six months and we continue to talk.

There will be those who argue that the Biden administration has just enhanced its leverage on this Israeli government by the ironclad support, as described by Joe Biden, that it has provided over the last 12 hours.

What it does with that and how Israel responds will be keenly watched, not just where you are in Beirut but where I am here in Abu Dhabi and right around this wider region.

It's always a pleasure having you on. Thank you very much indeed for joining us. Maha Yahya is out of Beirut for you today.

Still to come, even though Israel says it intercepted most of Iran's strikes along with its partners, Iranians are celebrating in the streets.

Our breaking news coverage continues.



ANDERSON: Israel says the IDF and its partners intercepted nearly all the missiles and drones launched by Iran overnight. U.S. President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a telephone call that he should consider it a win.

Biden is urging Netanyahu to avoid further escalation and says the U.S. will not participate in any offensive operation by Israel against Iran.

Biden and his national security team met in the White House situation room. He shared these photos saying, quote, our commitment to Israel's security against threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad.

But in Tehran, people are celebrating waving Palestinian and Hezbollah flags. Iran's army chief of staff says the military operation has concluded. But if Israel responds, Iran's next operation will be much bigger.

Well, amid Iran's attacks on Israel, tensions have been rising at the Israel-Lebanon border. The IDF responded to a slew of rockets launched by Iranian-backed Hezbollah. Earlier on Sunday, sirens sounded in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, as the Israeli military estimates around 25 projectiles were fired from Lebanon.

The IDF did not specify the type of projectiles fired or if they were intercepted. A spokesman says Israeli forces responded by firing more than 55 rockets over the course of an hour.

And it's really important that you keep an eye on that northern front. There are real concerns around this region that that is the next front to open up. How Israel will respond to these Iranian strikes by retaliation with Hezbollah and over that border, it needs to be keenly watched.

Relations have been strained lately between the U.S. president and the Israeli prime minister, but they seem to put aside their differences during that phone call about Iran's attack on Israel.

CNN's M.J. Lee has details on what else was said.

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden speaking on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the heels of Iran's significant attacks against Israel Saturday night.

According to the White House's official readout of the phone call, it says, I've spoken with Prime Minister Netanyahu to reaffirm America's ironclad commitment to the security of Israel. I told him that Israel demonstrated a remarkable capacity to defend against and defeat even unprecedented attacks, sending a clear message to its foes that they cannot effectively threaten the security of Israel.

We are also learning from a senior administration official that the president told the Israeli prime minister that he should consider tonight a win, that the U.S.'s assessment right now is that Iran's attacks had been largely unsuccessful.

And the reason that this is the U.S.'s assessment right now, according to this official, is that almost all of the drones and missiles that Iran launched Saturday, including more than 100 ballistic missiles, were successfully knocked out of the sky, we are told, and no cruise missile made impact in Israel. And we are told, essentially, that nothing of value was hit. Again, this is the U.S.'s current assessment of the situation. Importantly, we are also told the president told the Israeli prime minister that the U.S. will not participate in any offensive operations against Iran.


So, very noteworthy that this is sort of the president drawing a line in terms of what the U.S. is not willing to do to help Israel if it does, in fact, decide to potentially retaliate against Iran in a significant way.

Now, the president's statement tonight also noting that no U.S. forces or facilities were attacked tonight, but it did also say that U.S. forces would, of course, remain vigilant. Deterring this was a very important goal for U.S. officials in recent days, with the U.S. actually directly communicating with Iran and basically warning them that they should not come after U.S. personnel and assets in the region.

The one thing that this senior official I spoke with would not get into is what, if anything, the president might have advised the prime minister to do in terms of how Israel might retaliate or might respond in the coming hours and days. Of course, that is such an important question and such an important space to watch, given that the Biden administration is very set on trying to contain this situation and trying to prevent a wider regional war from erupting in the Middle East.

M.J. Lee, CNN, at the White House.

ANDERSON: Well, I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi for you.

CNN's Alex Marquardt picks up our coverage of the Iranian strikes on Israel after this.