Israel says it is prepared for a possible retaliatory strike by Iran. “A direct Iranian attack will require an appropriate Israeli response against Iran,” said Israeli Defense Minister Joav Galant in a conversation with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin, the Israeli government announced on Thursday evening. Austin once again assured Galant of “the United States' unwavering support for Israel's defense in the face of growing threats from Iran and its regional proxies,” the Pentagon said.

The army is prepared for an attack against Israel and “the resulting defense,” Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari said the same day. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meanwhile called on his colleagues in China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to stop Iran from escalating. It is not in Iran's interest.

Diplomatic efforts to de-escalate

After a suspected Israeli attack on the Iranian embassy compound in Syria on April 1, threats from Tehran towards Israel recently increased. The attack was like an attack on Iranian territory and Israel must be punished, Iran's head of state Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday. A number of phone calls have taken place in the past 24 hours, US Department spokesman Matthew Miller said on Thursday. Similar talks to those with China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are also being held with European allies and partners. “Escalation is not in Iran’s interest. It is not in the interest of the region. And it is not in the interest of the world,” the ministry spokesman continued.

The US Embassy in Israel issued a security warning for its employees in light of the threats. For reasons of caution, US government employees and their family members are prohibited from traveling outside the metropolitan areas of the cities of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beer Sheva in the south of the country until further notice, the US Embassy in Jerusalem said on Thursday your website. Meanwhile, Lufthansa extended the suspension of planned flights to and from the Iranian capital Tehran. “Due to the current situation, after careful evaluation, Lufthansa is suspending its flights to and from Tehran until Saturday, April 13th,” said a company spokesman early on Friday morning in response to a dpa request.

Hamas: Ceasefire needed to find hostages

Meanwhile, fears are growing in the Gaza war that more Israeli hostages could be dead in the contested coastal area than previously thought. The fate of the abductees can only be clarified during a ceasefire, said Basem Naim, a member of the political bureau of the Islamist Hamas, in a statement distributed on Telegram on Thursday evening. Part of the negotiations is to reach an agreement on a ceasefire “to allow sufficient time and security to collect final and more accurate data on the captured Israelis.” Naim was responding to questions from media representatives as to whether Hamas had rejected the latest US proposal because it could not release 40 hostages in a first phase.

According to media reports, the first phase of a three-stage agreement called for the release of women, soldiers, men over 50 and men under 50 with serious medical problems. However, in recent negotiations, Hamas stated that it did not have 40 living hostages from these categories. The abductees are in different locations in the embattled Gaza Strip and in the hands of different groups, Naim said in the statement. Some of them are also lying “under the rubble” along with killed Palestinians, said the senior Hamas official. “We are negotiating to get heavy equipment for this purpose.”