update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

White House shocked at scale of Iranian aerial attack

Biden administration officials looked on with mounting alarm as the number of ballistic missiles fired at Israel kept increasing.

Israeli interceptors fired to stop Iranian missiles fired at Israel appear above the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem on April 14, 2024. The nearby Al-Aqsa mosque is the third holiest site in Islam. Source: X.
Israeli interceptors fired to stop Iranian missiles fired at Israel appear above the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem on April 14, 2024. The nearby Al-Aqsa mosque is the third holiest site in Islam. Source: X.

The White House was shocked at the scale of the Iranian missile and drone attack against Israel on the night of April 13, according to a Sunday report in The Wall Street Journal detailing how the Biden administration handled the unprecedented event.

According to the article, U.S. President Joe Biden cut short his vacation at Rehoboth Beach, Del., and rushed back to Washington the evening before the attack where he was briefed on Tehran’s plans.

Even with advanced warning of the attack, administration officials told the Journal that the top officials gathered in the White House Situation Room were horrified by the hundreds of projectiles being launched from Iranian soil and Tehran’s terrorist proxies hurtling towards the Jewish state.

They feared that they could overwhelm the Israeli and American defense systems that had been bolstered in the week leading to the attack, with a team of U.S. military personnel secretly traveling to Tel Aviv to work on a missile-defense operations center with their Israeli counterparts.

“President Biden and his national-security team watched with mounting alarm on April 13 as monitors in the White House Situation Room showed 30, then 60, then over 100 Iranian ballistic missiles streaking toward Israel,” according to the Journal article.

“This was on the high end, I think, of what we were—what we were anticipating,” a senior official said.

Some 350 drones and missiles were fired at Israel in the first-ever attack on the Jewish state directly from Iranian territory. The attack involved more than 120 ballistic missiles, more than 30 cruise missiles and approximately 170 drones, launched in three waves timed to arrive at the same time to overwhelm Israel’s air defense systems, with the attack avoiding civilian sites in favor of military targets.

The drones, one of the largest swarms in military history, took some five to seven hours to reach Israel, the cruise missiles two to three hours and ballistic missiles just 12 minutes.

While Israel and other countries swatted away nearly all of the missiles and drones, according to the Journal report, Washington believed that it and Israeli forces could handle 50 ballistic missiles but that more than 100 was uncharted territory.

In the end, the drones and missiles were shot down by Israeli and allied and regional military aerial defenses, with the assistance of the Americans, British, Jordanians, French and Saudis, resulting in a 99% success rate and not a single drone entering Israeli airspace, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

“Israel’s Arrow system intercepted most of the ballistic missiles, while the two American destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean downed several others. An American Patriot antimissile battery in Erbil, Iraq, intercepted another one,” the article stated.

“The lumbering drones, in the meantime, were shot down by a combination of American, British, French and Israeli aircraft.”

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