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History and Updates on the Conflict Between Iran and Israel

In recent years, the ongoing conflict between Iran and Israel has unfolded through a series of clandestine operations, retaliations, and escalating tensions. Beginning with airstrikes and assassinations in 2019 and 2020, the hostilities intensified with attacks on shipping companies, the assassination of key figures, and increased militia activity in 2021 and 2022. The conflict reached a new level of intensity in December 2023 when Iranian-backed militias stepped up attacks in response to Israeli actions in Gaza. This  escalation culminated in a significant event on April 13, 2024, when Iran launched an assault involving over 300 drones and missiles towards Israel (the majority of which were intercepted before causing damage) signaling an escalation in the conflict. 

On Apr. 17, 2024, The New York Times published an article explaining the history of the conflict between Iran and Israel dating back to 2019. The article explains how in Aug. 2019 an Israeli air strike killed two Iranian-trained militants in Syria, “when a drone set off a blast near a Hezbollah office in Lebanon and an airstrike in Qaim, Iraq, killed a commander of an Iran-backed Iraqi militia.” Following that, in Jan. 2020, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of the foreign-facing arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was assassinated in an American drone strike in Baghdad. 

In 2021-2022, an Israeli shipping company was attacked. Israeli officials claimed the attack was done by Iranian drones. Iran did not officially say anything about the attack, but according to the article, a state-owned television channel described the episode as a “response to an Israeli strike in Syria.” Later in the year, “Israel killed Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, and followed up with the assassination of a Revolutionary Guards commander, Col. Sayad Khodayee, in May 2022.” 

Following the events of 2021-2022, the next recorded event of note was in Dec. 2023, when “Iranian-backed militias stepped up their own attacks” after Israeli “bombardment” of Gaza. These steps were in response to Hamas’s  Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

In Jan. 2024, an explosion in Beirut killed a Hamas leader. “Officials from Hamas, Lebanon and the United States ascribed the blast to Israel, which did not publicly confirm involvement.” In Mar. and April of 2024, “An Israeli drone strike hit a car in southern Lebanon, killing at least one person.” Attacking each other and not admitting responsibility has been the characteristic of these attacks, characteristic of a shadow war.

On April 13, 2024,  Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles towards Israel according to the BBC. The attack included 170 drones and 30 cruise missiles and at least 110 ballistic missiles. Israel, the United States , Jordan, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and France were able to intercept 99% of the missles. Iran’s main target was Israel’s Nevatim air base, which was lightly hit. 

The culmination of Iran's recent attack on Israel is a reminder of the enduring conflict between Iran and Israel, characterized by a pattern of covert operations, retaliations, and escalating tensions that have only grown over the past few months. This latest escalation underscores the need for diplomatic efforts to de-escalate tensions and seek a peaceful resolution to the enduring conflict in the region.

By: Salma Emjaheed, Contributing Writer

Graphic by Shae-Lynn Henderson, EIC



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