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Herzog: Israel not 'seeking war' with Iran, but attack 'has to be met accordingly'

Israeli President Isaac Herzog said Sunday that Israel is not “seeking war” with Iran after the country launched an attack of more than 300 rockets on Saturday evening, but that the barrage “has to be met accordingly,” vowing a response.

Iran and its proxies in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen launched about 350 rockets, including more than 100 ballistic missiles, toward Israel on Saturday in response to an Israeli strike on Iranian military leaders at a diplomatic complex in Syria last week.

About 99 percent of the missiles were intercepted, the Israeli military said, with the country only suffering limited damage to some military complexes. President Biden has since warned Israel not to retaliate against Iran, as fears rise over a wider regional war in the Middle East.

“This was a very aggressive and brutal attack, which looks like a declaration of war,” Herzog said in a CNN interview Sunday. “But I also added immediately to say that we are not seeking war. We are seeking always peace.”

Herzog argued that Saturday’s attacks were part of a wider effort by Iran against Israel, positioning any future Israeli response as a defensive action.

“Iran has been holding war against us for decades with its proxies,” he said. “We are meeting an empire of evil which wants to eradicate all values of the free world.”

He added that world governments must now come together against Iran in light of the attack.

“It’s about time the world stands up to them and says, ‘No, we won’t let you.’ Don’t, as President Biden said, ‘Don’t’. And therefore, because he says ‘don’t’ and we all say ‘don’t,’ that’s why they were met with a very strong response last night,” Herzog said. “But I think the world has to understand that this is another development in the war which Iran is waging against the free world and has to be met accordingly.”

Members of the Israeli war Cabinet have vowed retaliation against Iran for the missile and drone launches, despite urging from the Biden administration.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby avoided going into details Sunday when questioned about Biden’s pressure on the Israeli government, following reports that Biden attempted to persuade Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against retaliation.

Kirby instead focused on what he called Israel’s “success.”

“It was very clearly, you know, ‘We stand with you in your self-defense,’” Kirby said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when asked about Biden’s message to the prime minister. “That was the main message that the president delivered to the prime minister and congratulated the prime minister and the [Israel Defense Forces] for the extraordinary job they did knocking things out of the sky.”

“But I won’t go into more detail. Again, I just go back to what the president has said time and time again: We don’t seek an escalation. We don’t seek a wider war in the region,” he added.

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