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Israel conducts airstrike in Iran, US media say, citing Israeli, US officials


A man rides a motorbike past a billboard depicting Iranian ballistic missiles in service in Tehran on April 19, 2024.
A man rides a motorbike past a billboard depicting Iranian ballistic missiles in service in Tehran on April 19, 2024.

Israel carried out a predawn aerial strike inside Iran on Friday.

The New York Times and The Washington Post cited Israeli officials as saying Israel had carried out an airstrike in Iran. U.S. officials were cited by multiple news outlets as calling it a missile strike.

The location or target of the apparent Israeli strike was not immediately identified.

About an hour after the reports emerged, an Israeli military spokesperson contacted by VOA said he had no comment "at the moment.”

Italian Foreign Minister Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, the host of the Group of 7 ministerial meeting in Capri, Italy, said Friday Israel had informed the U.S. “at the last minute,” of the attack.

Speaking to reporters at a briefing Friday following G7 meetings in Capri, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was asked repeatedly to comment about the reports, but he refused to do so.

“The United States has not been involved in any offensive operations,” Blinken said in response. “What we're focused on, what the G7 is focused on, and again it's reflected in our statement and in our conversation, is our work to de-escalate.”

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, said the U.N chief “reiterates it’s high time to stop the dangerous cycle of retaliation in the Middle East.”

“The secretary-general condemns any act of retaliation and appeals to the international community to work together to prevent any further development that could lead to devastating consequences for the entire region and beyond,” the statement said.

Iranian state news agencies IRNA and Fars said the Islamic republic’s air defenses had been activated near the central city of Isfahan in response to a projectile. They also reported that explosions were heard in the eastern outskirts of the city but did not specify whether the blasts were from interceptions or impacts on the ground.

This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the dual-use civilian airport and air base in Isfahan, Iran, April 18, 2024.
This satellite image from Planet Labs PBC shows the dual-use civilian airport and air base in Isfahan, Iran, April 18, 2024.

The director of the Iranian space agency said air defense forces shot down several drones.

Iranian state media quickly attempted to play down the incident, saying Isfahan’s nuclear facilities were secure. They also said operations at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini international airport and Mehrabad domestic airport had returned to normal on Friday, several hours after flights were suspended in an apparent response to the purported Israeli airstrike.

It would mark the latest salvo in a yearslong Israel-Iran shadow war that has escalated significantly this month. Israel had warned Iran that it would retaliate for an unprecedented Iranian aerial assault on Israeli territory last Sunday involving hundreds of drones and missiles. Israel said it intercepted almost all of the projectiles with help from a coalition of Western allies and Arab partners.

Iran had warned, in turn, that any Israeli retaliatory strike would be met with a swift and tougher response.

Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib, a Middle East security analyst at the Atlantic Council, told VOA Iran’s muted response could be an effort to avert an escalated confrontation, as long as Tehran’s nuclear program is not directly targeted.

“There are estimates and calculations which believe that Iran may be willing to absorb and swallow a limited retaliatory strike by Israel. However, strikes against Tehran's nuclear program will dramatically escalate the direct confrontation between Iran and Israel,” he said.

The U.S. and other Western powers had urged the Israeli government to avoid escalating the conflict in calculating its next move. U.S. officials had said they did not intend for U.S. forces to join in any Israeli retaliatory action.

Alkhatib told VOA the Biden administration understood Israel’s need to carry out a "face saving" retaliation for Sunday’s Iranian attack.

“Any Israeli strike will necessitate U.S. involvement, cooperation, support, and ultimate endorsement - defensively and offensively, casting doubt on the accuracy of claims by the Biden administration that it would not be involved in an Israeli retaliation,” Alkhatib said.

VOA White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara, VOA U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer and VOA’s Kurdish and Persian services contributed to this report.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.