Saturday night’s 'shock and awe' air raid happened 21 years after the original

Saturday night’s “shock and awe” air raid happened 21 years after the original.

And like that terrifying US attack on the heart of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Baghdad in 2003, the aerial assault on Israel also lasted about 15 minutes.

The missile attack on Baghdad will always be remembered for the damage it did, whereas the missile attack on Israel will always be remembered for the damage it was prevented from doing by one of the most remarkable and successful defensive operations of all time.

As luck would have it - take your pick, good or bad - I watched both barrages take place first hand and strange though it may seem, they are linked. More on that later.

ITV News’ late bulletin on Saturday aired at 11pm, which was 1am on Sunday, Tel Aviv time.

Israel was the top story and I appeared live to try to explain what was going on.

I knew the first Iranian drones and missiles were expected to reach here about an hour later.

When I arrived home around 1:30 am, I was restless and knew a place on the coast that would give me a good view of the port city of Ashdod, some way south.

Iranian social media posts last week portrayed missiles striking Ashdod, so I thought I may as well grab a couple of beers and go and have a look.

Just in case.

Not surprisingly there was no-one else around, so I could feel foolish alone.

And I did, for about five minutes. Then I saw the first interceptor streak up in the night sky.

In the early days of the Gaza War, the Iron Dome system shooting down Hamas rockets was a nightly occurrence.

So the sight on Saturday wasn’t entirely new, but I knew it was different.

Firstly, it was happening a long way away, perhaps 75 miles south west from where I was.

Also, the interceptions were taking place at very high altitude. That’s why the falling debris was burning up as it plummeted. Exactly the same way a meteorite does.

I did my best to record some of it on my iPhone camera. I was shocked and awed by what I was seeing and knew it was history.

But at the time, I didn’t know quite how much history.

The original “shock and awe” attack on Baghdad was one of the opening salvoes in an invasion that would make Iraq a client state of Iran.

The Iranians had already set up Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The attacks lit up the sky over Israel on Saturday night

Gulf War 2 gave them Iraq and paved the way for their takeover of Syria.

They would go on to back the Houthis, who now control half of Yemen.

All those proxy groups have attacked Israel from all those countries in the years since the Americans toppled Saddam.

Iran has been able to threaten Israel more and more.

Not surprisingly the Israelis have hit back more and more.

Especially against Iranian targets in Syria.

On April 1 the Israelis made a foolish mistake for real.

They killed two top Republican Guard generals in an airstrike on the Iranian diplomatic compound in Damascus.

Not only were important people taken out, Tehran regarded it as a strike on Iranian soil. They decided retaliation would have to involve a direct strike on Israeli soil for the first time ever.

Events set in motion by Shock and Awe 1 had led directly to Shock and Awe 2.

Iran’s creation of an arc of regional allies has taken decades.

By contrast, Israel’s regional allies appeared from out of the blue on Saturday night.

And it is quite shocking and awe-inspiring that those allies included Arab States, who leapt to the defence of Israel for the first time ever.

President Biden has often talked about the need for a formal anti-Iranian alliance. But it has all seemed a bit notional.

That changed in the space of a few hours on Saturday night, when an awful lot of history flashed before me.

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