(JTA) — President Donald Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing an American surveillance drone, but held off on ordering them.

As late as 7 p.m. on June 20, military and diplomatic officials were expecting a strike, after intense discussions and debate at the White House among the president’s top national security officials and congressional leaders, the New York Times reported, citing multiple senior administration officials involved in or briefed on the deliberations.

The president had initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries, official told the Times.

The operation was underway in its early stages when it was called off, a senior administration official said. Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down, the official said.

The abrupt reversal put a halt to what would have been the president’s third military action against targets in the Middle East. Trump twice has ordered strikes at targets in Syria, in 2017 and 2018.

Asked about the plans for a strike and the decision to hold back, the White House declined to comment, as did Pentagon officials.