Israel will respond to Iran's attack, Cameron says

For days, Israel's closest Western allies have implored the country's wartime government not to risk triggering a wider war by responding too forcefully to last weekend's barrage of Iranian missiles and drones. And top German and British diplomats delivered this message in person to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

But Netanyahu emerged from those talks determined that his country would not bow to any outside pressure in choosing its response. Before a cabinet meeting he declared that Israel “will do whatever is necessary to defend itself” and warned allies that “we will make our own decisions,” according to his office.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron acknowledged shortly before meeting the prime minister that Israel was unlikely to heed the call to turn the other cheek.

“It's clear that the Israelis are making the decision to act,” Cameron told the BBC. “We hope they do it in a way that does as little as possible to aggravate the situation.”

The United States, Britain and Germany have urged Israel to avoid making moves that could increase tension with Iran, which launched around 300 missiles and drones on Saturday night in what is believed to be its first direct attack on Israel. Most of the missiles and drones were shot down before they reached their targets – thanks in part to assistance from the United States, Britain, France and Jordan – and those that did get through caused minimal damage.

Netanyahu thanked Israel's allies for their “support in word and deed” in a speech before a cabinet meeting, according to his office. But he added: “They also have all kinds of tips and advice. I appreciate it, but I want to make it clear: we will make our own decisions.”

Iran has warned it would react forcefully to any Israeli aggression, with the army commander-in-chief, General Abdolrahim Mousavi, saying on Wednesday: “We will respond with more lethal weapons.”

Israel's war cabinet has met several times since last weekend with no apparent decision on when and how to respond to the attack. Officials are said to be considering a range of options, from a direct attack on Iran to a cyberattack or targeted assassinations, trying to send a clear message to Iran without triggering a serious escalation.

“Israel will respond when it sees fit,” an Israeli official said on Wednesday, adding that it had “several ways” to do so. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, announced last Thursday that new European sanctions will be imposed on Iran's drone and missile programs as punishment for last weekend's attacks.

“It's a clear signal that we want to send,” Michel said, leaving a meeting of leaders of European Union member states in Brussels after midnight. “We must isolate Iran.” He said more details on the new sanctions will be announced in the coming days.

Adam Rasgon AND Lara Jakes contributed to the reporting.

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