Iran and Israel tensions are at a boiling point – here's what you need to know

Everyone is talking about Israel and Iran, and for good reason.

Iran and Israel tensions are at a boiling point – here's what you need to know
Source: Wikimedia Commons/Telluride

What happened?

Everyone is talking about Israel and Iran, and for good reason. For those who don’t know the specifics – on April 1, Israel conducted an airstrike on the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus, Syria. Several people from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) died, including a high-ranking commander. 

This strike is a part of Israel’s campaign against Iran and any targets related to Iran in neighboring Syria, and the campaign has been going on for quite some time. With this, there are often escalations that involve intense exchanges of fire, just like the one we saw recently. 

From there, on April 13, Iran retaliated and fired 300 missiles and drones at Israel, most of which were intercepted by Israeli defenses as well as the British, the US and Jordan, so there wasn’t much damage. 

But this specific incident can be considered more serious for a number of reasons, including the number of missiles and drones fired and the fact that the conflict isn’t usually directly between the two. Plus, now some reports are starting to come out and say that Israel has begun its retaliation by striking on Iranian soil already (although this is still a developing situation.) 

But why did Israel strike in Syria? 

Iran supports militant groups fighting against Israel in Gaza and along the Lebanese border. The country also has proxy groups in other countries in the region. Specifically, in Syria, Iran has built up a military presence because it backs President Bashar al-Assad. One goal of Iran is to use its proxies in Iraq and Syria to facilitate weapons transfers to help Hezbollah in Lebanon. So, to stop these transfers, Israel often strikes targets in Syria that it says are associated with Iran, although Israel is usually pretty hush-hush about actually taking responsibility for those strikes.

But ultimately, the conflict between Iran and Israel goes way back – to around the Iranian revolution in 1979. Since then, Iran has rejected the existence of Israel, training these militant groups to act against it, with many of them dead set on the total destruction of Israel. To add to all the drama, Israel captured an area called Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967, which it later annexed. So, Iranian forces in Syria have fired on Israeli holds in Golan Heights before, which also prompted Israel to respond in turn.

Why is it important?

Aside from the general concern that tensions could escalate to a regional war across the Middle East and the humanitarian impact that would have, the region is also home to some of the world’s largest oil producers. This means that any instability in the region can affect oil production, shipping and prices, adding inflationary pressures.

On top of that, specifically, China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure project is all about boosting regional connectivity and economic opportunities in Asia, Europe and Africa. So, geopolitical stability is crucial. If things start boiling over in the Middle East, that could negatively affect investments and the project’s growth. Plus, Hong Kong also sees a lot of foreign investments, including from the Middle East, so instability in that region could lead to a reevaluation or even redirection of these investment commitments.

What is everyone saying about these recent attacks?

“As we have already officially announced the operation of the 'Honest Promise' was successfully carried out with the aim of punishing the aggressor. Now we firmly declare that the smallest action against Iran's interests will definitely be met with a severe, extensive and painful response against all its perpetrators.”

-Iran President Ebrahim Raisi

"Iran's legitimate defense and countermeasures have been concluded. Therefore, the Israeli regime must be compelled to stop any further military adventurism against our centers, assets and interests."

-Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian

Israel will “do everything necessary to defend itself … we will make our own decisions.”

-The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“We, the Leaders of the G7, unequivocally condemn in the strongest terms Iran’s direct and unprecedented attack against Israel. Iran fired hundreds of drones and missiles towards Israel. Israel, with the help of its partners, defeated the attack. We express our full solidarity and support to Israel and its people and reaffirm our commitment towards its security.”

-G7 Leaders’ joint statement