Iranians torn between concern and pride after attack on Israel

TEHRAN – Iranians were torn between a fear of war and pride at Iran’s military capabilities, after Tehran’s unprecedented attack on Israel in retaliation for the deadly strike on its Damascus consulate. 

“It is normal to be worried in this situation, whether from a social or economic point of view,” said 47-year-old Jafari, an employee with Iran’s judiciary who did not give his full name.

“But the fact that Iran has been able to reach this level of special ability… is a matter of pride,” he told AFP in downtown Tehran. 

On Sunday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) announced it had launched hundreds of drones as well as missiles towards military sites in Israel. 

Among the main targets were an intelligence centre and an air base in the Negev desert, which Tehran says was used by Israel to strike Iran’s consulate in Damascus on April 1. 

Iran had vowed to avenge the strike on its diplomatic mission, which killed seven Guards including two generals from the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of the Guards. 

Israel’s army said it had shot down 99 percent of the drones and missiles with the help of the United States and other allies, with the attack resulting in only minor damage. 

Tehran said it had “significantly destroyed” its targets.

“We were extremely happy with this action of the IRGC and in fact, we felt better after a long time,” said 65-year-old retiree Ali Erfanian. 

“This was a help and solidarity with the oppressed people of Gaza and the West Bank.” 

The latest developments took place against the backdrop of the Gaza war, which began with Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel which killed 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.  

Tehran backs Hamas but has denied any direct involvement in its attack on Israel.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive against the Palestinian militant group has killed at least 33,729 people in the Gaza Strip, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

‘War is no joke’

Several Iranian military figures have been killed in Syria since the Gaza war began in strikes Iran has blamed on Israel.  

State television aired footage of Guards chief Hossein Salami ordering the start of the operation late on Saturday. 

In the video, Salami said the operation was to “honour the memory” of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force who was killed in a 2020 US strike in Baghdad, and Mohammad Reza Zahedi, one of the generals killed in the Damascus strike. 

The Islamic republic does not recognise Israel, and the two countries had fought a shadow war for decades before Saturday’s direct attack.

Demonstrators chanted “Death to Israel!” and “Death to America!” in Tehran’s Palestine Square, where a mural reading “the next slap will be fiercer” was unveiled.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had warned in the aftermath of the Damascus strike that Israel would “be slapped” in response.

Iran said its attack, which was carried out in “self-defence”, was “concluded” and that “there was no intention to continue this operation”. However, it also warned Israel not to make “another mistake”. 

Goldar, a judge in his late 50s who did not give his full name, said “we feel proud and honoured that a tough … response was handed to the Zionist regime”.

For Mahdi, a 35-year-old beekeeper, Iran’s response was long overdue. 

“There has been sadness and anger in our hearts and we were always waiting for this revenge to be carried out and for the Israelis to be punished for their brutality,” he said. 

“We couldn’t believe it when the news came last night.” 

Others, like Milad, a private school teacher who also did not give her full name, hoped the “conflict will not continue” because it might lead to a “destructive war” for both Israel and Iran. 

“We have not yet completely rebuilt the ruins of the Iran-Iraq war in the country’s southwest,” said the 46-year-old. 

“A war is no joke.”  –AFP