Iranian air base attacked in ‘limited’ Israeli reprisal strike

Illustrative: Iranian soldiers take part in a military parade during a ceremony marking the country’s annual army day in Tehran on April 17 (PHOTO: Atta Kenare / AFP/Times of Israel)

Originally published in The Times of Israel

Explosions were heard near the Iranian city of Isfahan early today as Israel reportedly launched a heavily anticipated reprisal strike for an Iranian attack on Israel days earlier, defying international pressure to stand down.

There was no official confirmation of a strike from Israeli authorities; state-run media in Iran reported only that air defences were activated, downplaying claims of an attack on a military site in the city some 315km south of Tehran and describing the incident as business-as-usual.

But unnamed Israeli and American officials told US news outlets that Israel had carried out a strike. And the New York Times said three Iranian sources confirmed that a military air base in Isfahan had been struck. The scope of the damage was not clear.

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The apparently limited nature of the strike, reportedly carried out with drones rather than missiles or airstrikes, and the lack of official acknowledgment will likely give the regime in Iran the strategic deniability needed to wriggle out of its bellicose threats to attack Israel a second time, providing an early indication that both Israel and Iran may be seeking to step back from the brink of war.

The attack had been widely expected, with Israel providing indications throughout the week that it would not let an unprecedented Iranian barrage of over 300 ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones early Sunday pass without a response, leading to fears of spiraling tit-for-tat attacks giving way to all-out war.

The apparently limited nature of the strike, reportedly carried out with drones rather than missiles or airstrikes, and the lack of official acknowledgment will likely give the regime in Iran the strategic deniability needed to wriggle out of its bellicose threats to attack Israel a second time, providing an early indication that both Israel and Iran may be seeking to step back from the brink of war.

- Advertisement -

The attack had been widely expected, with Israel providing indications throughout the week that it would not let an unprecedented Iranian barrage of over 300 ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones early Sunday pass without a response, leading to fears of spiraling tit-for-tat attacks giving way to all-out war.

However, there were also indications that the Israel Defense Forces had moderated its attack plans in response to international pressure for restraint. National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir a hardliner who has pushed for wide military action against Iran, commented on X with a simple “lame.”

Iranian state TV said that shortly after midnight “three drones were observed in the sky over Isfahan. The air defence system became active and destroyed these drones in the sky”.

The broadcaster later said the situation in Isfahan was normal and no ground explosions had occurred. Iranian officials initially grounded flights and cleared its airspace, but lifted restrictions on flights later Friday morning.

Gen. Siavosh Mihandoost, a local army commander, told state TV the incident caused “no damage” around Isfahan.

An Iranian analyst told state TV that the mini drones shot down by air defenses in Isfahan were flown by “infiltrators from inside Iran”.

One source told Reuters the US was not involved but was notified by Israel before the attack.

According to CNN, quoting a senior US official, Israel told the US the attack was not targeting Iranian nuclear facilities. Both CNN and Fox News quoted officials describing the attack as “limited.”

An Israeli source was quoted telling the Washington Post that the attack was meant to serve as a warning that Israel’s military has the ability to reach Iran.

Israel’s Home Front Command said there were no special instructions for staying near bomb shelters, indicating no Iranian response was expected.

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