Fearing ‘unprecedented escalation’, Europeans condemn Iran's attack on Israel

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Fears are soaring of a major escalation in the Middle East conflict after Iran’s first-ever direct attack on Israel.

Iran launched more than 300 “threats of various types” toward Israel, including drones, cruise and ballistic missiles, Israel’s Defence Forces (IDF) spokesperson Avichay Adraee said.

“We have intercepted 99% of threats towards Israeli territory,” Adraee said, calling it a “important strategic achievement”.

Most of the missiles launched by Iran were intercepted outside Israel’s borders, while a limited number fell inside the country’s territory, Adraee said.

The US and UK reportedly helped Israel shoot down Iranian drones over Jordan, Iraq, and Syria, with fighter jets and refuelling aircraft taking off from bases in Cyprus.

In a separate statement, the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah said it had targeted Israeli barracks in the Golan Heights, an Israeli-occupied strip of Syria.

The wider region had been on high alert for a possible Iranian retaliation after an Israeli strike hit Tehran’s embassy in the Syrian capital Damascus earlier this week, killing a senior figure in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards, and eight other officers.

World leaders condemned Iran’s attack together with regional powers, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, who called for ‘utmost restraint’.

Across Europe, EU leaders and diplomats condemned the retaliatory attack by Iran on Israel, with many of them expressing concern over the danger of a devastating region-wide escalation.

European Council President Charles Michel said the bloc’s leaders “strongly condemn” the attack by Iran on Israel. “Everything must be done to prevent further regional escalation,” he said on X.

“More bloodshed must be avoided. We will continue to follow the situation closely with our partners,” Michel added.

The EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell called the Iranian attack “an unprecedented escalation and a grave threat to regional security”.

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné said that in “taking such an unprecedented action, Iran has crossed a new threshold with regard to its destabilising activities and is risking a potential military escalation.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Germany condemns “in the strongest possible terms the ongoing attack, which could plunge an entire region into chaos”, while Belgian Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib, currently holding the EU’s rotating presidency, called the attack a “major escalation and a danger to regional stability”.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said his country was following the situation “with attention and concern” and was “ready to manage any kind of scenario”.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez voiced his “utmost concern” over the events in the Middle East without mentioning Iran directly, adding that “a regional escalation must be avoided at all costs”, with his Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares stressing that “containment is essential”.

Ireland’s new Taoiseach Simon Harris condemned Iran and urged “all sides to show restraint now and to avoid any escalation in military action and the devastation that would cause.”

Israel has requested a UN Security Council session about Iran’s unprecedented drone and missile attack, which will take place at 16:00 New York time on Sunday.

Tel Aviv is expected to request the body to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organisation.

Before that, there was a reassurance from an Israeli official cited by the New York Times that “Israel’s response would be coordinated with its allies” and a counter-attack was unlikely to be launched before the UN session.

US President Joe Biden pledged on Saturday a coordinated G7 diplomatic response and said he would convene the group’s leaders – including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States – later on Sunday.

With the region and Israel’s allies on high alert, EU diplomats now expect the issue will be put on the agenda of this week’s informal EU summit, which was originally meant to be limited mostly to addressing the bloc’s competitiveness.

Unlike with Israel’s war in Gaza, Europeans did not significantly differ in their condemnation of the Iranian attack.


UKRAINE COMMITMENTS | The EU has put together a framework document, based on the bloc’s existing and ongoing efforts, to give Ukraine lasting security commitments, according to a draft by the bloc’s diplomatic service (EEAS), seen by Euractiv.

‘NO FANTASY’ | A full-scale conflict in Europe is “no longer a fantasy” and Europeans must find new ways to financially prepare for a potentially wider war on the continent, the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell warned this week.


HAMAS SANCTIONS | EU member states imposed measures under the bloc’s human rights sanctions regime on the armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad for ‘widespread’ sexual violence during the 7 October attacks on Israel.


FORGOTTEN TOP JOB | The race has started for Ireland, Poland, and Slovenia, who all want to get hold of the chairmanship of the EU’s highest military body, the EU Military Committee (EUMC).

MIND THE GAP | Finland’s new president Alexander Stubb proposed a clear distinction between NATO and EU defence tasks, to avoid concerns over “complementarity”: the former focuses on defence and deterrence, while the latter handles industrialisation. What worries him the most? Not overlaps, but “gaps”.

LACK OF SHIPS | The EU’s operation in the Red Sea to protect commercial ships from attacks by Houthi rebels is showing results but remains stuck in a small area of operation due to a lack of ships and other assets.



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[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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