Ukraine’s air defenders claim two major firsts, but missiles evading interception kill 7

 Israel and Iran on Friday downplayed an apparent Israeli airstrike near a key air base and nuclear site in central Iran, suggesting the arch-enemies are poised to prevent a recent outburst of violence from turning into an all-out conflict. Regional war.

But the inconclusive outcome of weeks of tensions — which included an alleged Israeli strike that killed two Iranian generals, an unprecedented Iranian missile attack on Israel, and an apparent Israeli strike early Friday in the heart of Iran — did little to resolve the deep differences between the two countries. enemies and leave the door open for further fighting.

“We appear to be closer than ever to a large-scale regional war, although the international community is likely to make a major effort to reduce tensions,” wrote Amos Harel, a military affairs commentator for the Israeli daily Haaretz. .

Israel has long viewed Iran as its greatest enemy, citing the Islamic Republic's calls to destroy Israel, its controversial nuclear program and its support for hostile proxies throughout the Middle East.

These tensions have increased since Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the two Iranian-backed Palestinian groups, attacked Israel on October 7, leading to a devastating Israeli offensive in Gaza that lasted more than six months. Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed proxy in Lebanon, immediately began attacking Israeli targets, opening tit-for-tat combat along a second front, while Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen also launched missiles and drones against Israel across the country. . war.

While Israel and Iran have waged a shadow war for years, especially in neighboring Syria, they have largely avoided direct confrontations. That changed after an April 1 airstrike killed two Iranian generals at an Iranian diplomatic compound in the Syrian capital, Damascus. Although Israel did not comment, Iran blamed Israel for the attack and vowed revenge. Iran responded with its first direct attack on Israel, launching more than 300 missiles and attack drones on Saturday night. Israel, working with a US-led international coalition, said it intercepted 99% of incoming fire, although a group of rockets managed to land, causing minor damage to an Israeli military base and seriously wounding a young woman.

In Friday's attack, Iranian state television said that air defense batteries opened fire in several provinces due to reports of drones flying in the air. Iranian Army Commander General Abdul Rahim Mousavi said that the crews targeted several flying objects.

Mousavi said, "The explosion that occurred this morning in the sky of Isfahan was linked to the firing of air defense systems at a suspicious object and did not cause any damage." Authorities said air defenses fired on a key air base near Isfahan, which has long been home to Iran's fleet of US-made F-14 Tomcat jets, which it acquired before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Isfahan is also home to sites linked to Iran's nuclear programme, including the underground enrichment site at Natanz, which has been repeatedly targeted by suspected Israeli sabotage attacks. The apparent attack occurred on Friday, the 85th anniversary of the birth of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. State television described all Iranian nuclear sites in those areas as “completely safe.” The United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency also said that no damage was caused to Iranian nuclear sites.

Iranian officials did not mention possible Israeli involvement. This may be intentional, especially after Iranian officials have been threatening for days to respond to any Israeli retaliatory attack.

Israel had no comment on the apparent attack, although hard-line government minister Itamar Ben Gvir indicated his displeasure with a one-word tweet early Friday, using a slang word meaning weak or lame.

But Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told a summit of Western leaders in Capri that the United States received information “at the last minute” from Israel about the attack. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken did not deny this, but said: “We did not participate in any offensive operations.” Yoel Guzansky, a former Iran expert in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, said Israel appeared to carry out the attack to "check a box" by sending a message.