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Israel Faced a Sophisticated Attack From Iran

The weapons Iran used on Saturday travel farther and are more precise than those Hamas and other allies have used against Israel in the past six months.

A bright line of light arcs across a dark nighttime sky.

Drones or missiles being fired at Israel from Iran on early Sunday.Credit…Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Jin Yu Young
  • April 14, 2024, 2:41 a.m. ET

Late Saturday, Iran began firing hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel, including weapons that experts say are more sophisticated than anything Israel had encountered until now in six months of fighting with Hamas and its allies in the region.

Previously, Israel had faced aerial attacks from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, whose rocket arsenal includes short-range (12 to 25 miles) and somewhat inaccurate 122-milimeter rockets of the Grad family, as well as Syrian-made M-302 rockets with a range of about 100 miles. Hamas also has Fajr-5 rockets from Iran and a similar, locally made version of the Fajr-5, both with a range of about 50 miles.

The weapons Iran used on Saturday can travel much farther, and some of them can travel much faster. Still, Israel said that nearly all of the missiles and drones that Iran fired were intercepted, many with help from U.S. forces.

In Saturday’s attack, 185 drones, 36 cruise missiles and 110 surface-to-surface missiles were fired toward Israel, according to Israeli military officials. Most of the launches were from Iran, though a small portion came from Iraq and Yemen, the officials said.

Fabian Hinz, an expert on Iran’s military at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Berlin, said in a post on X that Iran is likely using a cruise missile developed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Paveh 351. It has a range of more than 1,200 miles — plenty to reach Israel from Iran.

According to his post, different versions of that missile have also been provided to the Houthis in Yemen and to the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces.

And Jeffrey Lewis, a member of the International Security Advisory Board at the U.S. State Department, said in a post on X that Iran was using land-attack cruise missiles that could carry around a ton of explosives.

He also noted that much of Iran’s arsenal of ballistic missiles have a long enough range to reach Israel. And though Iran’s drones carry much smaller explosive payloads than missiles, they have the advantage of being able to hover and shift targets.

In recent decades, Iran has largely been focused on deterrence, long-range missiles, drones and air defenses. It has one of the largest ballistic missile and drone arsenals across the Middle East, according to weapons experts, and is also becoming a major arms exporter globally.

Last year, after the attack by Hamas in October, Israel asked the United States for more precision-guided munitions for its combat aircraft and more interceptors for its Iron Dome missile defense system. Israel’s weapons arsenal includes Vietnam-era missiles, some of which have a failure rate as high as 15 percent.

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