Iran, Israel appear to pull back from brink as US approves military aid

Iran and Israel appeared to step back from the brink of broader conflict as lawmakers in the United States approved new Israeli military aid on Saturday despite growing criticism of its ally's war in Gaza.

Iran downplayed Israel's reported retaliation for its unprecedented drone and missile attack, tamping down fears that escalating attacks between the arch enemies could tip over into a broader war in the Middle East.

However a deadly blast at an Iraqi military base underlined the persisting tensions in the region, as did more deadly Israeli strikes in Gaza and intensifying clashes in the West Bank.

Aiming to bolster Israel's defences including its Iron Dome air defense system, the U.S. House of Representatives approved $13 billion in new military assistance for the country.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the aid bill, writing on X, formerly Twitter, that it "demonstrates strong bipartisan support for Israel and defends Western civilization".

But the Palestinian presidency condemned it as "an aggression against the Palestinian people" and a "dangerous escalation".

The money would "translate into thousands of Palestinian casualties in the Gaza Strip" and the West Bank, said Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

  Iran plays down Israel attack 

After Iran launched more than 300 missiles and drones a week ago in Tehran's first-ever direct attack on Israeli territory, Israel had warned it would hit back.

The Iran attack was itself in retaliation for an air strike — widely blamed on Israel — that levelled the Iranian consulate in Damascus and killed seven Revolutionary Guards on April 1.

The Israeli retaliation appeared to come on...

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