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Israel should not directly attack Iranian soil, ex commanders say


(TEL AVIV, Israel) — Two former senior Israeli military officials said a direct military strike against Iranian territory would not be in Israel’s best interests.

Retired Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, who was head of Israel’s National Security Council from 2004 to 2006, said the alliance that helped Israel successfully defend itself from Iran’s first-ever direct attack against Israeli territory on Sunday has proven “that Israel cannot do everything alone.”

Eiland said Iran’s attack and the defensive military support and intelligence Israeli received from a coalition — led by the U.S. and including European and Arab states — has reversed Israel’s growing isolation in relation to the war in Gaza. That sentiment is shared by retired Israeli Col. Miri Eisin.

Both former Israeli officers told ABC News that Israel should now capitalize on that sense of renewed support, both from allies and other regional players, like Jordan and Saudi Arabia, who also view Iran as a regional threat.

Iran on Saturday night unleashed a retaliatory strike against Israel, sending a volley of more than 300 uncrewed drones and missiles toward targets throughout the country, Israeli military officials said. All but a few were intercepted by Israel and its allies, including the United States, officials said.

Eisin said Israel now needs to deter Iran and other adversaries from conducting future attacks. However, she said, effective deterrence would also mean working with the consent of key partners, such as the U.S., adding that allies should not be kept “out of the room.”

The Biden administration has said it would not take part in any Israeli response. U.S. officials, however, are urging Israel to show restraint.

Eiland, who led the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) planning branch from 2001 to 2003, said the Israeli military is, theoretically, capable of causing “terrible destruction to the Iranian energy sector” — either to its oil fields or by orchestrating an attack that could “shut down the electricity” to Tehran.

The Israeli government has not ruled out a direct military strike against Iranian military territory, and Eiland conceded there was a “temptation” for Israel “to try something dramatic.”

Israel is unlikely to carry out a strike on Iran until after Passover, which ends after nighfall on April 30, a senior U.S. official told ABC News, although that could always change.

However, Eiland said a direct military strike against Iran would risk sparking “a real cycle of violence” between Israel and Iran that would endanger the entire region.

He also warned that Israel might not be ready or have the ammunition to conduct a drawn-out war with Iran. As a former officer he would not have access to information on Israel’s current ammunition stocks, however Israel is hoping that the U.S. Congress will soon sign-off on additional military aid for the IDF.

Congress is set to vote on the matter on Saturday, although Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson is facing opposition from some fellow Republicans on a separate vote for aid for Ukraine.

Eiland said Israel does have the capability to carry out more covert forms of attacks against Iranian territory, which would not involve a kinetic military strike.

He said cyberattacks could be one possible category of covert attack that Israel could consider but said there could be “some other creative solutions,” which, because of their sensitive nature, he could not disclose.

Instead of a direct military strike against Iranian territory, Israel should increase attacks against Iran’s proxies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, both former Israeli military officers said.

Eisin, who is now managing director of the International Institute for Counterterrorism, an Israeli think-tank, said Israel should ensure that through its response it retakes the “initiative” and “defines the rules,” by significantly increasing attacks on pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Syria, as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The IDF announced on Tuesday that it had killed two Hezbollah commanders in two separate attacks in Lebanon. However, there has been no official confirmation that those attacks were part of Israel’s response to the Iranian attack on Saturday night.

That attack, widely attributed to, but not officially claimed, by Israel, killed seven members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, including two generals, and precipitated Saturday’s first-ever direct missile and drone attack by Iran against Israeli territory.

Eiland denied Israel miscalculated by not anticipating that Iran would launch a direct military strike involving more than a hundred ballistic missiles, and argued that by degrading the capabilities of Iran’s proxies in the region, Israel was conducting self defense.

The former Israeli major general also said Israel should issue an ultimatum to Hezbollah for it to halt its attacks, which have been occurring on a daily basis across Israel’s northern border since Israel launched its war in Gaza following the Oct. 7 terror attack in southern Israel.

For more than six months, around 70,000 Israeli citizens have been displaced from their homes in communities near the Israeli border with Lebanon.

Eiland said Israel should threaten another major ground war against Lebanon if Hezbollah refused to halt its attacks.

At the same time, he argued that Israel should halt its war against Hamas in Gaza in return for the release of all of the remaining hostages.

Hezbollah and the Yemen-based, Iranian-backed Houthis have said their attacks against Israel are a response to Israel’s war in Gaza.

However, the Israeli government has repeatedly said the war in Gaza cannot end before Israel launches a military ground operation into the southern city of Rafah, where it believes thousands of Hamas fighters are still stationed.

The former major general said an offensive in Rafah would make little difference to the security threat posed by Hamas, because “80%” of its military capabilities had already been destroyed. 

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