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Biden will meet with his national security team as fears rise of an Iranian strike against Israel


REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. (AP) — President Joe Biden is cutting short a weekend stay at his Delaware beach house and returning to the White House on Saturday to meet with his national security team and monitor the situation in the Middle East ahead of a feared Iranian attack against Israel.

Tensions are at their highest since the Israel-Hamas war began six months ago after a suspected Israeli strike this month on an Iranian consular building in Syria killed 12 people, including two senior Iranian generals in the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force. Iran has promised to retaliate against Israel, and U.S. and Israeli officials have been bracing for an attack as soon as this weekend, raising concerns about the conflict escalating into a wider regional war.

The Pentagon reported that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had spoken with his Israeli counterpart “to discuss urgent regional threats ... and made clear that Israel could count on full U.S. support to defend Israel against any attacks by Iran and its regional proxies." National security adviser Jake Sullivan also spoke with his counterpart to reinforce Washington's “ironclad commitment to the security of Israel.”

Biden on Friday said the United States was "devoted” to defending Israel and that “Iran will not succeed.” Asked by reporters what his message was for Iran, the president’s only reply was: “Don’t.”

He ignored a question about what would trigger a direct U.S. military response, and when asked how imminent an Iranian attack on Israel was, Biden said he did not want to get into secure information, “but my expectation is sooner than later.”

The U.S., along with its allies, have sent direct messages to Tehran to warn against further escalating the conflict.

During the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, there have been near-daily exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group along the Israel-Lebanon border. U.S. officials have recorded more than 150 attacks by Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria on U.S. forces at bases in those countries since war started on Oct. 7.

One attack in late January killed three U.S. service members in Jordan. In retaliation, the U.S. launched a massive air assault, hitting more than 85 targets at seven locations in Iraq and Syria.

Meantime, on Saturday, commandos from Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard rappelled from a helicopter onto an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the vessel.

National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the U.S. strongly condemned the seizure and urged Iran to release the ship and crew immediately.

“We will work with our partners to hold Iran to account for its actions,” she said.

Also Saturday, the Israeli-occupied West Bank also saw some of the worst violence since Hamas' attack on Israel.


Miller reported from Washington.