Israel launches retaliatory attack against Iran near military base

An image that claims to show a strike on Iran
An image that claims to show a strike on Iran - Twitter

Israel has launched a retaliatory strike against Iran with explosions reported near a military base.

Iran said it had shot down drones near the facility, while two US officials said an Israeli missile hit Iran in the early hours of Friday morning.

The officials did not reveal the location or extent of the Israeli strike to CBS news, though local sources have suggested three explosions were heard near the Isfahan air base, which sits close to a major nuclear facility.

An Iranian official claimed the explosions were the result of Iran’s air defence systems being activated, adding no missile attack had been carried out against Iran.

The attack “was intended to signal to Iran that Israel can attack its territory”, the Washington Post reported.

Israel’s strike caused no damage to Iran’s nuclear sites, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iranian state-owned media have said.

The agency is continuing to monitor the situation closely and called for extreme restraint from all sides, stressing that nuclear facilities should never be a target in military conflicts.

Before the strikes Iran had vowed to retaliate immediately if hit, and “at a maximum level”.

An Iranian analyst speaking on state TV argued separately that drones were flown by “infiltrators from inside” the country.

“The foreign source of the incident has not been confirmed,” an Iranian official, who was not named, also told Reuters. “We have not received any external attack, and the discussion leans more towards infiltration than attack.”

Washington is understood to have been warned in advance of the attack but did not endorse the plan or help with it.

Israel has been warning that it would respond to a major Iranian attack last weekend that involved more than 300 drones, rockets and missiles, despite calls from its Western allies to avoid any further escalation.

Israel’s military refused to comment when asked about the developments on Friday morning.

Tensions in the Middle East have soared in the past few weeks. Tehran’s attack was in turn a response to a suspected Israeli strike on Iran’s Damascus consulate, which killed a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps general.

The fact that Tehran is downplaying the assault suggests it may be looking to avoid further escalation, according to experts.

Iranian state TV described Friday’s attack as “psychological warfare”, saying that it had intercepted several drones but that all sites in Isfahan were “fully safe”.

“Nuclear centres are not harmed,” said state TV as it reported on the blasts.

“Three small drones were spotted in the skies above Isfahan and around the Zareanjan area at approximately 4am,” the semi-official Mehr news agency reported, citing an unnamed course.

“Following the siting of these micro-drones, the air defence system was activated, destroying these drones.”

No damage was caused in the overnight attack, Siavosh Mihandoust, a senior commander of Iran’s Army, said on Friday according to state TV.

“The sounds were related to Isfahan air defence shooting at suspicious objects and we have not had any damage or accident,” said Colonel Mihandoust.

State television also acknowledged “loud noises” in the Isfahan area.

“At 4.45, we heard gunshots. There was nothing going on,” a reporter said. “It was the air defence, these guys that you’re watching, and over there too.”

State TV IRNA said air defences had been activated at a major air base in Isfahan, which has long been home to Iran’s ageing fleet of American-made F-14 Tomcats – purchased before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Tasnim, a semi-official news agency in Iran associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, later published a video from one of its reporters who said he was in the southeastern Zerdenjan area of Isfahan, near its “nuclear energy mountain”.

The footage showed two different anti-aircraft gun positions, and details of the video corresponded with known features of the site of Iran’s Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan.

The facility operates three small Chinese-supplied research reactors, as well as handling fuel production and other activities for Iran’s civilian nuclear program.

Isfahan is also home to sites associated with Iran’s nuclear program, including its underground Natanz enrichment site, which has been repeatedly targeted by suspected Israeli sabotage attacks.

‘The sky became orange’

Residents in the central city told The Telegraph they were woken up first by buzzing sounds and then explosions.

“I rushed out as I was worried about any attack in recent days. and then I saw a big boom and then a few more small ones and the sky became orange,” Ali, a resident of the eastern part of Isfahan, said in a telephone interview.

“We hear these sounds usually as they test air defence systems regularly, but this one was more than that and too early,” he added.

“For around half an hour, there was the sound and light of shots going up from the mountain and then small explosions in the sky.”

Another resident said he was fleeing the city as a precaution.

“I was doing my morning prayer when I heard shots and explosions,” said Misaq.”It went on for over half an hour. There were several explosions over the mountain.

“Everything looks normal now, but I cannot risk the safety of my family. I’m driving now and leaving Isfahan. I will be back if it is calm tomorrow.”


Why did Israel attack Iran?

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Sounds of explosions were also heard in northwestern Tabriz, with IRNA reporting the same line: that air defence systems were activated after “suspicious objects” were spotted.

Flights in Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz were suspended for over two hours. The country’s civil aviation authority later reported the flights were back to normal by early Friday.

On Thursday Iran threatened to build a nuclear bomb and hit Israel’s nuclear facilities if it was attacked by Benjamin Netanyahu’s forces.

But Holly Dagres, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Programs, said the reaction from Iran suggested a retaliatory strike was not imminent.

“Tehran is trying to downplay the Israeli response, as evidenced by the coverage by state media, which attempted to show that all was ‘safe and calm’,” she told The Telegraph.

“However, citizen journalist footage of air raid sirens going off and air defence responding in Isfahan suggests this was not some minor event.”

“This downplaying of events by Tehran may actually be a tactic to prevent them from feeling the need to retaliate directly against Israel again,” she said.

“In essence, this could potentially be a restoration of deterrence.”