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It was an “incredible military achievement” by Israel, the United States and other partners in repelling “more than 300 drones and missiles” launched by Iran, according to White House national security spokesperson John Kirby.

“Several dozens of drones and missiles” targeting Israel were shot down by the U.S. military, Kirby said on CNN and NBC on Sunday morning.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a statement late Saturday, said the explosive aircraft and missiles were launched from the territories of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

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“We call on Iran to immediately halt any further attacks, including from its proxy forces, and to deescalate tensions,” said the U.S. defense chief. “We do not seek conflict with Iran, but we will not hesitate to act to protect our forces and support the defense of Israel.”

U.S. President Joe Biden later Sunday is to convene a hastily arranged video conference of leaders of the Group of Seven nations to “coordinate a united diplomatic response to Iran’s brazen attack.”

Biden, in a statement prior to the meeting, emphasized that the West was not looking to further widen the six-month conflict that has engulfed the Middle East.

“My team will engage with their counterparts across the region. And we will stay in close touch with Israel’s leaders,” said Biden. “And while we have not seen attacks on our forces or facilities today, we will remain vigilant to all threats and will not hesitate to take all necessary action to protect our people.”

Biden spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday evening to “reaffirm America’s ironclad commitment to the security of Israel.”

Biden told Netanyahu, according to media reports, that since the Iranian attack caused only minimal casualties and damage, Israel should not retaliate against Iran.

US President Joe Biden arrives at the White House in Washington, on April 13, 2024.

US President Joe Biden arrives at the White House in Washington, on April 13, 2024.

Biden had rushed back to Washington from a visit to Delaware earlier Saturday and convened a meeting in the White House Situation Room with key officials of his Cabinet as Iran launched the unprecedented attack after vowing to retaliate over an April 1st suspected Israeli airstrike on Iran’s Damascus consulate.

The U.S. military began moving extra troops and equipment to sites in the Middle East, defense officials had confirmed Friday. It has about 40,000 troops in the region.

The U.S. Navy moved two guided-missile destroyers capable of intercepting drones and incoming missiles closer to Israel in anticipation of the Iranian attack, The Wall Street Journal reported.

U.S. Navy Red Sea forces have previously intercepted long-range missiles launched toward Israel from Yemen by the Iranian-allied Houthi forces.

The Biden’s administration response to the Iranian attack will be closely watched by his political opponents, coming less than seven months before a general election rematch between the Democratic Party incumbent and his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.

Trump, speaking Saturday at a rally in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, claimed the attack “would not have happened if we were in office.” He did not elaborate on how.

“God bless the people of Israel,” he said. “They are under attack right now. That’s because we show great weakness.”

Even before the Iranian drones reached Israeli airspace, some Republican lawmakers began reacting.

Representative Steve Scalise of the state of Louisiana wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that the United States “must stand strongly with our greatest Middle East ally as they defend themselves against Iran,” adding that the Biden administration “cannot continue to capitulate to terrorists.”

Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn of the state of Tennessee, in a message on X, called for Biden to “move quickly and launch aggressive retaliatory strikes on Iran.”

Meanwhile, Democrat Chris Coons, of Biden’s home state of Delaware, issued a statement of condemnation but also urged American lawmakers to pass Biden’s request for military aid to Israel.

“The House should promptly pass this coming week the long delayed national security supplemental to ensure that our Israeli allies have everything they need to defend themselves from attacks by Iran and its proxies,” he said.

And some analysts pointed to Biden’s own vacillation on the conflict as contributing to Tehran’s decision to strike.

“President Biden needs to provide unwavering political support to see Israel through this critical time,” Foundation for Defense of Democracies CEO Mark Dubowitz said in a statement sent to VOA. “Biden’s wavering support for Israel in recent months, and the threat from some Democrats to cut off military support, surely emboldened [Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei.”

Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft co-founder Trita Parsi, who is also a former president of the National Iranian American Council, told VOA that “had Biden pressed for a cease-fire from the outset, all of this would have been avoided.”

“This is the direct result of Biden’s bearhug of Israel — that is, constantly bending to Netanyahu’s desires and preferences,” he said. “If Biden had condemned the Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate and allowed the UNSC [U.N. Security Council] to condemn it, Iran might have stopped short of attacking Israel.”

The Security Council is to hold an emergency meeting Sunday afternoon and will be briefed by the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

VOA National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.