Israel attacks Iran; no plan for immediate retaliation from Tehran

Iran’s Fars news agency reported “three explosions” were heard near the Shekari army airbase in the central city of Isfahan. - PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM WARISJOKHIO98/X via The Straits Times/ANN

WASHINGTON (Reuters): Israel launched an attack on Iranian soil on Friday (April 19), sources said, in the latest tit-for-tat exchange between the two arch-rivals, whose decades of shadow war has broken out into the open and threatened to drag the region deeper into conflict.

Iranian media reported explosions, but an Iranian official said those were caused by air defence systems. State media said three drones over the central city of Isfahan had been shot down.

Mini drones shot down by air defences in Isfahan were flown by “infiltrators from inside Iran”, an Iranian analyst told state TV.

Iran has no plan for immediate retaliation against Israel, a senior Iranian official said.

“The foreign source of the incident has not been confirmed. We have not received any external attack, and the discussion leans more towards infiltration than attack,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Israel’s leadership and the military were silent early on Friday.

Washington and other global powers had pressed Israel not to respond, or to ensure any further retaliation was limited to prevent a broader conflagration, after the latest surge in violence was sparked by an air strike on the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus on April 1 that was blamed on Israel.

That strike came against the backdrop of Iran’s support for Palestinian militant group Hamas.

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”.

Senior army commander Siavosh Mihandoust was quoted by state TV as saying air defence systems had targeted a “suspicious object”.

Israel has attacked Iran, three people familiar with the matter said, as Iranian state media reported early on April 19. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM BENISABTI/X via The Straits Times/ANNIsrael has attacked Iran, three people familiar with the matter said, as Iranian state media reported early on April 19. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM BENISABTI/X via The Straits Times/ANN

Iran reaction subdued

In most official comments and news reports, there was no mention of Israel and state television carried analysts and pundits who appeared dismissive about the scale.

Iran’s state television said nuclear facilities where Iran has been conducting work – which Tehran says is peaceful but which the West believes is aimed at building a weapon – were unharmed.

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that there was no damage to Iran’s nuclear sites.

ABC and CBS News reported the strikes had been carried out by Israel, quoting US officials.

The US received advance notice of Israel’s reported strike on Iran but did not endorse the operation or play any part in its execution, US media quoted officials as saying.

NBC and CNN, citing sources familiar with the matter and a US official, respectively, said Israel had provided Washington with pre-notification of the strike.

There was no immediate comment from the White House. In response to a query from AFP, the Pentagon duty desk said: “We do not have anything to offer at this time.”

British security firm Ambrey said on April 19 that merchant vessels transiting the Gulf and western Indian Ocean were advised to stay alert in case of increased uncrewed aerial vehicle activity in the region.

Ambrey said it had received information that indicated an “Israeli military strike” was conducted on Isfahan.

The Israeli military said warning sirens, which sounded early on April 19 in northern Israel, were a false alarm.

The sirens had gone off shortly after unconfirmed reports of Israeli strikes in Iran.

Airports in Shiraz, Isfahan and Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport were closed to all flights until 0700 GMT (3pm Singapore time), according to a notice to airmen posted on a US Federal Aviation Administration database.

By 0445 GMT, the airports and airspace had reopened, and closure notices had been removed.

Iran on April 13 launched hundreds of drones and missiles in a retaliatory strike after a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria. Most of the drones and missiles were downed before reaching Israeli territory.

Iran told the UN Security Council on April 18 that Israel “must be compelled to stop any further military adventurism against our interests”, as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the Middle East was in a “moment of maximum peril”.

Israel had said it was going to retaliate against Iran’s April 13 missile and drone attack.

Analysts and observers have been raising concerns about the risks of the Israel-Gaza war spreading into the rest of the region.

Oil prices jumped on the reports of the Israeli strike. Brent crude futures rose 2 per cent to US$88.86 a barrel, the dollar gained broadly, gold rose 1 per cent and S&P 500 futures dropped 1 per cent.

Bitcoin sank as part of a wider retreat in cryptocurrencies amid a wave of caution across global markets. It fell below US$60,000 (S$81,700) before recovering to US$61,400 at 11.15am on April 19 in Singapore.

The US Embassy in Jerusalem restricted US government employees from travel outside Jerusalem, greater Tel Aviv and Beersheba, “out of an abundance of caution”.

In a statement on its website, the embassy warned US citizens of a “continued need for caution and increased personal security awareness, as security incidents often take place without warning”.

China opposes any actions that further escalate tensions and will continue to play a constructive role to de-escalate the situation, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian said on April 19, when asked about the reports.

Israel’s assault on Gaza began after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s military offensive has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the local Health Ministry.

Iran-backed groups have declared support for Palestinians, launching attacks from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq. - REUTERS

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