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Netanyahu brushes off allies' calls for restraint following failed Iranian attack

ISRAELI Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected close allies’ calls for restraint in the wake of last weekend’s failed missile and drone attack by Iran, insisting that his country would be the one to decide whether and how to respond.

Israel has vowed to hit back, but without saying when or how, leaving the region bracing for further escalation after months of unrest linked to the ongoing violence in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Mr Netanyahu said that he had had meetings on Wednesday with visiting British Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and had thanked them for their countries’ support.

But he said Israel would choose on its own on how to respond, despite “all sorts of suggestions and advice” coming from friendly countries, some of which — including the United States, Britain and France — helped Israel repel the Iranian assault, which followed an Israeli air strike on an Iranian consular building in the Syrian capital Damascus that killed 16 people including a top general.

“I want to be clear: we will make our decisions ourselves. The state of Israel will do whatever is necessary to defend itself,” Mr Netanyahu said.

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi warned on Wednesday that even the “tiniest” invasion of its territory would bring a “massive and harsh” response.

In Gaza, civilians have borne the brunt of the Israeli military onslaught, which begin in response to a bloody cross-border attack by the Hamas group that ruled the besieged coastal enclave, and Israel has failed to honour pledges to allow more deliveries of humanitarian aid.

International experts have warned of imminent famine in northern Gaza and said that half the territory’s 2.3 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation if the violence intensifies.

In a bid to tighten the screw even further, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations told the security council on Wednesday night that the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees was part of Hamas’s “terror war machine.”

Gilad Erdan claimed, without providing evidence, that UNRWA had been totally infiltrated by Hamas and that the UN agency was part of a Palestinian plot to annihilate Israel.

“Today in Gaza, UNRWA is Hamas and Hamas is UNRWA,” Mr Erdan said. “The time has come to defund [it].”

UNRWA commissioner-general Philippe Lazzarini warned the security council that heeding the Israeli demand would would deepen Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, leave a half million children without education and fuel “anger, resentment and endless cycles of violence.”

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