Iran fires at suspected Israeli drones near air base, nuclear site

Iran early Friday fired at drones suspected to be part of an Israeli attack near a major air base and nuclear site near the city of Isfahan.

Air defense batteries were activated after reports of explosions near the air base, The Associated Press reported.

The New York Times reported that television networks and officials in both countries downplayed the significance of the strike. Israeli officials said it was a limited response aimed to avoid escalating tensions with Iran, especially because it did not cause significant damage to military sites in Iran.

Iranian officials told the Times that the strike had hit a military air base near Isfahan, but Brig. General Siavash Mihandoust, the senior military official in the city, told local television that any explosions heard Friday were from Iran shooting down “flying objects.”

An Iranian official told Reuters that there were no plans to respond against Israel.

During a press conference in Capri, Italy, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. has “not been involved in any offensive operations” when asked about the suspected Israeli strikes, calling them “reported events.”

Italy’s foreign minister also said the U.S. told G7 ministers that it had been informed “at the last minute” by Israel about the drones.

“But there was no sharing of the attack by the U.S. It was … mere information,” Antonio Tajani added.

The air base in Isfahan has been home to Iran’s fleet of American-made F-14 Tomcats, purchased before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The facility in Iran operates three Chinese-supplied research reactors and handles fuel production for the country’s civilian nuclear program, the AP noted.

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said there was “no damage to Iran’s nuclear sites” after the retaliatory drones from Israel.

The agency called for “extreme restraint from everybody” and noted that “nuclear facilities should never be a target in military conflicts.” The agency said it is monitoring the situation very closely.

The agency has warned that Iran now holds enough enriched uranium to build several nuclear weapons, but U.S. authorities say it is not actively seeking to create a bomb, the AP noted.

Several flights were diverted around western Iran around 4:30 a.m. local time on Friday, offering no explanation but aviators suggested the airspace may have been closed. Iran grounded commercial flights in Tehran and western and central regions, but it later restored normal flight service.

Tensions remain high in the region after Iran attacked Israel last weekend with some 300 ballistic and cruise missiles along with explosive drones. That attack was largely defeated by Israel and allied defense systems but has caused concern that the conflict will grow.

It followed an Israeli airstrike on April 1 that destroyed a building in Iran’s consulate in Damascus, killing several top Iranian officers.

–Updated at 8:09 a.m.

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