An artist paints along a street in Mumbai on April 13, 2024, to depict the unrest between Palestine, Israel and Iran.
An artist paints along a street in Mumbai on April 13, 2024, to depict the unrest between Palestine, Israel and Iran. Image Credit: AFP

Jerusalem: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday Israel was prepared for a "direct attack from Iran" following its threats of retaliation for a deadly air strike on its Damascus consulate.

"Our defence systems are deployed, we are prepared for any scenario, both in defence and attack," he said in a televised statement, adding that Israel had the backing of the United States and "many" countries.

Israel warns Iran of 'consequences' of escalation

Israel warned on Saturday that Iran would suffer the "consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further" as fears grew of wider conflict more than six months into Israel's war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

The strong warning came after Iran seized a container ship linked to Israel in the Gulf, and the United States announced it was sending more troops to the troubled region.

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The White House has repeatedly warned Tehran against carrying out a potentially imminent attack on Israel in response to an air strike on an Iranian diplomatic building in Damascus earlier this month.

'Monitoring a planned attack'
Israel is "closely monitoring a planned attack" against it by Iran and Tehran's allies in the region, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said, without giving further details on the threat.

In the statement, Gallant said Israelis should heed any orders that might be issued by the military's Homefront Command, which maps incoming missiles and other aerial threats so as to let the public know whether to take shelter.

Jordan closes airspace, citing "dangerous" situation

Jordan announced it was closing its airspace Saturday as regional tensions soared after Iran threatened reprisals against Israel for a deadly air strike on its consulate building in Damascus.

The civil aviation authority in Jordan, which lies between Israel and Iran, said that the measure, initially imposed for "several hours" from 2000 GMT, would be reviewed and updated regularly "in light of developments", state media reported.

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Tehran vows to avenge

Tehran has vowed to avenge the April 1 strike - which killed 16 people, including two Iranian generals, and has been widely blamed on Israel - but has not specified how.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards seized a container ship "related" to Israel in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday, which was now heading towards Iranian waters, state media reported.

The ship's operator, the Italian-Swiss group MSC, said it was working with the relevant authorities to ensure the wellbeing of the 25 crew onboard.

'Iran to bear the consequences'

Not long after the seizure was announced, Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said that "Iran will bear the consequences for choosing to escalate the situation any further".

An adviser to Iran's supreme leader said that Israel was in "complete panic" over Tehran's looming response.

"They don't know what Iran wants to do, so they and their supporters are terrified," senior adviser Yahya Rahim said.

Israel closes schools over security concerns

Israel is closing schools nationwide over security concerns, military spokesman Daniel Hagari said.

There will be "no educational activities" when the school week begins on Sunday "in light of the security situation," he said in a televised statement.

Travel warnings
Following Iran's retaliation threats, Israel said it was strengthening air defences and paused leave for combat units.

A US defence official in Washington said that "we are moving additional assets to the region to bolster regional deterrence efforts and increase force protection for US forces".

The Netherlands said that its embassy in Tehran and consulate in Arbil, Iraq, would remain closed on Sunday "in connection with the rising tensions between Iran and Israel".

France earlier warned its nationals against travelling to the region, while the US embassy in Israel said it was restricting the movements of its diplomats over security fears.

German airline Lufthansa said its planes would no longer use Iranian airspace, while its subsidiary Austrian Airlines made a similar move. Australian airline Qantas said its long-haul Perth-London flights would also avoid Iranian airspace.