Israel has carried out airstrikes on Iran, US officials say

Israel has carried out airstrikes on Iran, US officials say

US officials have confirmed that Israel has carried out airstrikes against Iran as explosions were reported in the sky over the cities of Isfahan and Tabriz, while the Iranian government sought to play down the scale of the attack.

Officials in Washington said Israeli forces were carrying out military operations against Iran but did not describe the character or scale of those operations. Iranian state media said that drones had been shot down over Isfahan province in the early hours, and showed live shots of morning traffic in Isfahan city after sunrise to show that the situation was calm.

Israel’s N12 news channel reported that Israel had also struck targets in Iraq and Syria, and explosions were reported in both those countries.

Internal Iranian flights were cancelled, passengers at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airports were told to leave the building, and detonations were also reported in the sky over Tabriz.

Iranian state media sought to reassure Iranians on Friday morning that the country did not face a major threat. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) suggested that the aerial incursions had involved mini-drones. A reporter on the Tasnim news agency, closely affiliated to the IRGC, broadcast a video at dawn, showing the time on his watch, saying he was outside a nuclear site in Isfahan province which was “completely safe”.

Siavosh Mihandoust, a senior commander in Iran’s army, was reported by state TV as saying there was no damage in Isfahan.

Officials from the Biden administration said Israel had warned Washington earlier on Thursday that a strike was coming in the next 24 to 48 hours, a warning that was delivered by a virtual session of the US-Israeli Strategic Consultative Group involving the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and his Israeli counterpart, Tzachi Hanegbi as well as the Israeli minister for strategic affairs, Ron Dermer. According to CNN, the Israelis assured the Americans that Iran’s nuclear facilities would not be targeted.

The Israeli strike is in retaliation for a Iranian aerial attack involving some 300 missiles and drones on Sunday morning, which in turn was a reprisal for the bombing of an Iranian consular building in Damascus on 1 April. After the Iranian attack, Biden had urged Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to respond militarily but to the “take the win” of having shot down almost all the incoming Iranian munitions. Friday morning’s strike, whatever its scale, was an act of defiance of US influence by Netanyahu.

The US priority is to prevent the seven-month Gaza conflict from expanding into a broad regional conflict, and it made clear to Israel that while it had helped Israel defend against Iranian attack, it would not participate in any form of military counter-strike. US officials insisted they had no part in Israel’s actions overnight.

Before Friday’s strike, Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, told CNN on Thursday that Iran would respond forcefully if Israel attacked again.

“If the Israeli regime commits the great error once again our response will be decisive, definitive and regretful for them,” Amir-Abdollahian said. He described Sunday’s aerial attack on Israel as “our minimum response”, but if there was another Israeli strike the Iranian would respond “at a maximum level”.

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