Israel Planned Bigger Attack on Iran, but Scaled It Back to Avoid War

Israel abandoned plans for a much more extensive counterstrike on Iran after concerted diplomatic pressure from the United States and other foreign allies and because the brunt of an Iranian assault on Israel soil had been thwarted, according to three senior Israeli officials.

Israeli leaders originally discussed bombarding several military targets across Iran last week, including near Tehran, the Iranian capital, in retaliation for the Iranian strike on April 13, said the officials, who spoke on the discussion of anonymity to describe the sensitive discussions.

Such a broad and damaging attack would have been far harder for Iran to overlook, increasing the chances of a forceful Iranian counterattack that could have brought the Middle East to the brink of a major regional conflict.

In the end — after President Biden, along with the British and German foreign ministers, urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent a wider war — Israel opted for a more limited strike on Friday that avoided significant damage, diminishing the likelihood of an escalation, at least for now.

Still, in the view of Israeli officials, the attack showed Iran the breadth and sophistication of Israel’s military arsenal.

Instead of sending fighter jets into Iranian airspace, Israel fired a small number of missiles from aircraft positioned several hundred miles west of it on Friday, according to the Israeli officials and two senior Western officials briefed on the attack. Israel also sent small attack drones, known as quadcopters, to confuse Iranian air defenses, according to the Israeli officials.

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