Three drones downed after explosions heard in Iran’s Isfahan: State media

Iran’s air defences have brought down three small drones over the central city of Isfahan, state media reported, hours after United States broadcasters, quoting senior US officials, said Israeli missiles had hit an Iranian site.

Iranian state television reported explosions in Isfahan as air defences were activated and flights across several areas, including the capital, Tehran, and Isfahan, were suspended.

Airspace was reopened about four and a half hours after the incident and there were no reports of casualties.

Second Brigadier General Siavash Mihandoust, the top military official in Isfahan, told state media that air defence batteries hit “a suspicious object” and there was no damage.

ABC News and CBS News had reported earlier that Israel had carried out a military operation in Iran.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said the US told the Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers that it had been “informed at the last minute” by Israel about an attack on Iran.

“But there was no sharing of the attack by the US. It was a mere information,” Tajani told reporters in Capri, Italy, where the G7 ministers met.

However, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken refused to confirm reports about the Israeli attack, during a news conference in Capri.

“I’m not going to speak to that, except to say that the United States has not been involved in any offensive operation,” Blinken said.

The top US diplomat said the G7’s focus is on de-escalation. Asked to describe the current US-Israel relationship, Blinken noted that Israel makes its own decisions, but the US is committed to its security.

Iranian media said no strikes were launched on Iran from outside the country, and the attack was believed to have been carried out using small quadcopters that would have to have been launched from inside Iran.

Reporting from Tehran, Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari said Iranian media were downplaying the incident.

“The location in Isfahan province is an Iranian military airbase that belongs to the country’s army, and not the Revolutionary Guards [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, IRGC]. I think it’s important to highlight that,” she said. “This base houses multiple squadrons of F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft.”

“We also understand that the air defence systems over the city of Tabriz in the northwestern part of Iran were also activated,” Jabbari reported.

A military factory belonging to the Iranian army in Isfahan was attacked by multiple quadcopters in January 2023, failing to damage the facility that was protected by air defence batteries and mesh wiring on its roof to counter small unmanned aerial vehicles.

Iran blamed Israel for that attack and arrested four people, executing one of them in January 2024, for operating on behalf of Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.

Israel had promised to respond after Iran launched a barrage of drones and missiles on the country on April 13, after a suspected Israeli attack on Iran’s consulate compound in Damascus killed 16 people, including two IRGC senior generals.

Governments around the world urged restraint and a push to de-escalate tensions across the region.

Isfahan is considered a strategically important city and one that is host to several important sites, including military research and development facilities, as well as bases. The nearby city of Natanz is the location of one of Iran’s nuclear enrichment sites.

In a speech in Damghan, in central Iran, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi made no mention of Isfahan but praised the Iranian attacks on Israel, saying they gave the country strength and unity.

Kioumars Heydari, the commander-in-chief of the ground forces of the Iranian army, said Iran remains vigilant to confront any other potential aerial threats.

“If suspicious flying objects appear in the sky of the country, they will be targeted by our powerful air defence,” he was quoted as saying by the state-run IRNA  news agency ahead of Friday prayers in Tehran.

‘No damage’ to nuclear facilities

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that “there is no damage” to Iranian nuclear sites as the United Nations nuclear watchdog’s chief Rafael Grossi called for restraint and said nuclear facilities should never be targeted in military conflicts.

The reported attack “was far more limited than many expected”, Iranian arms control expert Ali Ahmadi told Al Jazeera, adding that Israel “has much more limitations in its operational range” than many think.

“Certainly, after Iran’s retaliatory capacity was criticised, it benefits from advertising how ineffective what Israel did was as well. Iran also needs to prepare the public for a much softer reaction than it has talked about in the last couple of days,” he pointed out.

Ahmadi said that prior to today’s incident, Iran was preparing several options for a massive retaliation, including getting allies involved.

But considering the limited scope and impact of the alleged attack, which he described as a “security sabotage” rather than a “military assault”, it would be a mistake to carry out a significant response, he stressed.

There were also reports of explosions in Iraq and Syria, with Iranian state media saying there were explosions at multiple military-linked sites in Syria.

Syria’s official news agency SANA quoted a military source as saying that missile strikes in the early hours of the morning caused material damage to air defence sites in the country’s southern region. The report did not specify the exact location and the extent of the damage but blamed Israel.

The US and a number of European countries had been calling on Israel not to respond to Iran’s attack.

On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres painted a dark picture of the situation in the Middle East, warning that spiralling tensions over Israel’s war on Gaza and Iran’s attack on Israel could descend into a “full-scale regional conflict”.

“The Middle East is on a precipice. Recent days have seen a perilous escalation – in words and deeds,” Guterres told the UN Security Council.

“One miscalculation, one miscommunication, one mistake, could lead to the unthinkable – a full-scale regional conflict that would be devastating for all involved,” he said, calling on all parties to exercise “maximum restraint”.

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