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Leading diplomats and politicians across the globe, fearing another major escalation of fighting in the Middle East, urged restraint as the world waited for Israel's response after it endured an unprecedented air attack by Iran over the weekend.

Tehran fired more than 300 missiles and drones at Israel late on April 13, almost all of which were shot down by Israeli defense systems, along with intercepts by forces from the United States, France, Britain, and Jordan.

Only a few missiles reached Israeli territory, causing modest damage to an air base and critically wounding a 7-year-old girl.

Israel and Iran have been bitter enemies for decades, but this was the first direct attack by one on the other's soil instead of through proxy forces or by targeting each other's assets operating in third countries.

The Israeli war cabinet was set to meet on April 15, with some hard-liners within the right-wing government said to be advocating a harsh response, while others were pushing for a more moderate decision.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised victory, while an influential member of the war cabinet said the country will retaliate in the "fashion and time" of its choosing.

"We're on the edge of the cliff and we have to move away from it," European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who said he spoke with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian late on April 14, told Spanish radio station Onda Cero.

"We have to step on the brakes and reverse gear."

Added British Foreign Secretary David Cameron in an interview on April 15 with the BBC: "I think they're perfectly justified to think they should respond because they have been attacked, but we are urging them as friends to think with head as well as heart, to be smart as well as tough."

Iran, which said it was responding to a suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus early last month that killed two brigadier generals, called on Western nations to "appreciate" the restraint it showed since the embassy attack and warned it will act more "resolutely" if "Israel crosses red lines."

The United States reiterated its "ironclad commitment" to the security of Israel but reportedly told the Jewish state it will not take part in any retaliatory action.

Speaking late on April 14 at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for "maximum restraint" amid fears that Iran's unprecedented attack on Israel could turn into a larger regional war.

"The Middle East is on the brink.... Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate," Guterres said.

After the meeting ended without any resolution, U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the UN Robert Wood said "there has to be a Security Council response to what happened."

The Iranian launch came amid heightened tensions between Iran and the West over the continuing war in the Gaza Strip and a deadly air strike on April 1 believed to have been carried out by Israel on the Iranian Consulate in Syria.

U.S. officials said Washington had been indirect contact with Iran through Swiss intermediaries before and after the attack, without providing details, but Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani cautioned on April 15 that no pre-arranged deal was made with any country regarding how Tehran would approach its military response to Israel.

Israel's retaliatory war in Gaza was sparked by a raid on Israeli territory carried out by Hamas, which rules Gaza and is designated as a terrorist group by the United States and European Union, on October 7. The raid left 1,200 people dead and hundreds of people were taken hostage.

The ensuing Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip aimed at destroying Hamas has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian territory's Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Since the war in Gaza began, Tehran has openly supported militant groups and proxies targeting Israel that are part of Iran's "axis of resistance" against Israel and the West, leading to concerns of a broader Middle East conflict involving archenemies Iran and Israel.

While Russia, seen as close to Tehran, has stopped short of publicly criticizing Iran for the attack on Israel, the Kremlin on April 15 said "further escalation is in no one's interests" and called for finding a solution through "political and diplomatic methods."

By RFE/RL

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