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An anti-missile system operates after Iran launched drones and missiles towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel, April 14, 2024.Amir Cohen/Reuters

Israel’s military has told residents they no longer need to remain near safe places, a sign that the acute danger from Iran’s unprecedented Saturday night direct attack appears to have passed.

Israel Defense Forces said it had identified “a small number of hits,” including at a military base in the south of the country, which caused minor infrastructure damage. Israeli emergency services reported that a 10-year-old girl was seriously injured in a Bedouin community in the country’s south.

Sirens also sounded three times on Israel’s northern border, the latest just before 5:30 a.m., as Israel’s military warned about dozens of projectiles launched from Lebanon.

U.S. President Joe Biden has promised a “united diplomatic response” to Iran’s attack on Israel, an indication that the White House is seeking to prevent military escalation.

“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,” Mr. Biden’s office said in a statement, after the president spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The statement noted that the Iran attack was aimed at Israeli military targets.

Mr. Biden, in an earlier statement, said the U.S. “commitment to Israel’s security against threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad.”

Israel has vowed to defend itself, and Iran has also warned of escalation.

“Should the Israeli regime commit any military aggression again, Iran’s response will assuredly and decisively be stronger, and more resolute,” the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations wrote in a Saturday evening letter for circulation to the UN Security Council.

The United Nations Security Council has also scheduled a meeting on Sunday.

For Israel – and a world that fears a major new conflict -- the single most important question now is what kind of military response Israel will make.

“We are prepared for any further threats, and are determined to defend our citizens,” Israel defence minister Yoav Gallant wrote on social media Sunday morning, following a call with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Iran dispatched waves of drones and missiles for Israel late Saturday night, nearly two weeks after an Iranian diplomatic building in Syria was hit by an air strike, killing seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – two of them generals.

The attack saw more than 300 drones and missiles fired upon Israel. Shortly after midnight, GPS jamming began to take effect across Israel, with phones in Tel Aviv reporting their location as the airport in Beirut.

“The defence and offence systems of the Israeli Air Force are on alert, and dozens of planes are in the skies – prepared and ready,” Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, a spokesman for the Israeli’s military, said in a statement.

As the attack began, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon closed their airspace. Israeli soon followed, with carrier El Al ordering jets already bound for Ben Gurion Airport to turn back.

U.S. President Joe Biden cut short a weekend trip to meet with national security officials as the Pentagon, in a statement, pledged “full U.S. support to defend Israel against any attacks by Iran and its regional proxies.”

“President Biden has been clear: our support for Israel’s security is ironclad. The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defence against these threats from Iran,” the White House said in a statement.

Additional attacks were launched from Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, while rocket sirens also sounded in northern Israel, near the regions of south Lebanon where Hezbollah, another Iranian proxy, maintains a potent arsenal.

Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu, in a video statement released Saturday night, warned that “whoever hurts us, we will hurt them. We will defend ourselves from any threat and we will do so calmly and with determination.”

“Together we stand, and with God’s help, together we will overcome all of our enemies,” he added.

Israel cancelled schools on Sunday, while universities in the country said they would postpone exams.

Earlier Saturday, Iranian commandos seized a container ship near the Strait of Hormuz. The Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries operated by a company linked with Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned the Iranian attack as “reckless,” saying the air strikes “risk inflaming tensions and destabilizing the region. Iran has once again demonstrated that it is intent on sowing chaos in its own backyard.”

The Iranian attack came in the midst of a lengthening period of calm for Israel, in its six-month war in Gaza. That war has become a more distant reality in Israeli cities, which had largely returned to the mundanities of life, with enforcement officers issuing parking tickets and popular restaurants demanding reservations.

The spectre of war with Iran, however, had created a mounting anxiety. Iran had vowed revenge on Israel for April 1 attack in Syria, although Israel never claimed responsibility.

“The whole nation is waiting to see when and where the Iranian missiles will hit,” Ben Caspit, an author and writer for Al-Monitor, said Friday. “It’s terrible and funny at the same time.”

On Saturday night, news of Iran launching its attack reached Israelis many hours before the drones could reach their targets – offering time for both preparation and black humour.

Orders for emergency supplies began to pour in to supermarkets across the country moments after news of the attack began to circulate.

At one in Jerusalem, workers lined an aisle with toilet paper and bottles of water.

“It’s crazy,” said an employee, as delivery drivers in motorcycle helmets sought to locate their orders.

With a report from Adrian Morrow in Washington.

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