U.S. issues travel warning for Israel with Iran expected to attack any moment and fear Gaza war could spread


Tel Aviv — Israel is bracing for a worst-case scenario that U.S. officials believe could materialize within just hours — the possibility of a direct attack on Israeli soil by Iran in retaliation for a strike almost two weeks ago that killed seven Iranian military officers. Iran has vowed to take revenge for Israel killing its commanders, who were hit by an April 1 strike on the Iranian embassy in Syria’s capital.

Two U.S. officials told CBS News that a major Iranian attack against Israel was expected as soon as Friday, possibly to include more than 100 drones and dozens of missiles aimed at military targets inside the country. The official said it would be challenging for the Israelis to defend against an attack of such a magnitude, and while they held out the possibility that the Iranians could opt for a smaller-scale attack to avoid a dramatic escalation, their retaliation was believed to be imminent. 

Tehran has not indicated publicly how or when it will return fire — so it’s unclear how far Iran’s leaders will go. If they decide to carry out a direct attack on Israel, there’s fear it could blow Israel’s ongoing war against Iranian ally Hamas up into a much wider regional conflict.

With the Iranian retaliation expected at any time, the U.S. State Department on Thursday warned Americans in Israel not to travel outside major cities, which are better protected from incoming rocket fire by the country’s Iron Dome missile defense system. The latest guidance noted that travel by U.S. government employees in Israel could be further restricted with little notice as things develop in the tinderbox region.

Iran-Burning Flags Of The U.S. And Israel
Members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) burn Israeli and U.S. flags during a funeral for members of the IRGC’s elite Quds Force who were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Syria, in Tehran, Iran, April, 2024. 

Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto/Getty

“Whoever harms us, we will harm them,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Thursday as he visited troops at an Israel Defense Forces airbase. “We are prepared… both defensively and offensively.”

Sima Shine, a security expert and former official with Israel’s national intelligence agency Mossad, told CBS News it was a dangerous moment for the region, and the “most worried” she has been. She said anxiety over an all-out war was likely just as high “on both sides, in Israel and in Iran.”

If Iran does chose to strike Israel directly, it could involve a complex missile and drone attack similar to the one Iranian forces launched against a Saudi oil facility in 2019.

“They will try to do it on the military or some military asset,” Shine predicted. “But the question will be the damage. If there would be many injured people, killed or injured… I think it has the potential for a huge escalation.”

Iran- International Jerusalem Day Rally In Tehran
Iranians stand in front of an anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli banner during a rally commemorating International Quds Day, also known as Jerusalem Day, during a funeral for members of the IRGC Quds Force who were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Syria, in Tehran, Iran, April 5, 2024.

Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto/Getty

Shine stressed, however, that she still believes neither side actually wants a regional conflict.

The dilemma for Iran, she said, is to figure out how to deliver its promised response to the Israeli attack, but in a way that does not lead to further escalation. Likewise, Shine said Israel could choose to show restraint when it responds to whatever Iran eventually does.

If either side gets the balance wrong, the consequences for the region, and even the world, could be dire.


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