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'Send rockets to stars': Elon Musk's message after Israel launches drone attack on Iran

Israel reportedly launched an attack on Iran in a tit-for-tat response to Tehran's assault on Saturday, as explosions were heard in Isfahan city. However, Iranian officials said that no damage was done in the overnight attack and drones spotted above Isfahan city were promptly shot down.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Updated on: April 19, 2024 14:57 IST
Elon Musk, Iran Israel tensions
Image Source : REUTERS (FILE) Tesla CEO Elon Musk

Washington: Tensions in the Middle East appeared to have escalated after Israel reportedly launched a drone attack at Iran in retaliation for Tehran's aerial assault on the Jewish country on Saturday, raising concerns of an all-out war between the two strong rivals in the fallout of the ongoing conflict in Gaza. In the midst of these tensions, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the world's richest man, has posted a cryptic message on his social media platform X (formerly Twitter) over the dramatic situation in the region.

Sharing an image of a rocket, Musk said, "We should send rockets not at each other, but rather to the stars." His message of peace comes after Israeli forces on Friday morning launched a missile attack on Iran in a retaliatory strike after Tehran's attack last Saturday where Israel faced more than 300 uncrewed drones and missiles toward targets throughout the country. It remained unclear whether Iran was under attack on Thursday.

Israel's attack on Iran

Iran has claimed to have shot down several drones after activating its air defence system over several cities as explosions were heard in central Isfahan city, while claiming that there was no missile attack. A US source said Washington was not involved but was notified by Israel on Thursday before the attack. 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". 

The back-to-back direct attacks have fuelled concerns that the decades of shadow war between Iran and Israel has now broken out into the open following the six-month-long Gaza war and threatened the drag the Middle East deeper into conflict. Washington and other global powers had pressed to Israel not to respond to Iran's Saturday attack, or to ensure any further retaliation was limited to prevent a broader conflagration.

Iran closed its airports in Tehran, Shiraz and Isfahan after the attack and also cleared flights from the western portion of its airspace for a few hours after the attack, according to FlightRadar24. The airports and airspace were later reopened. Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport was closed to all flights until 0700 GMT, according to a notice to airmen posted on a US Federal Aviation Administration database.

Tensions have been high in the Middle East since Iran's missile and drone attack on Israel and observers have raised concerns about the risks of the Israel-Hamas war i Gaza spreading into the rest of the region. Israel's assault on Gaza began after Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies. Israel's military offensive has killed nearly 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the local health ministry.

Asian shares and bond yields sank on Friday while safe-haven currencies, gold and crude oil jumped. Brent crude futures rose 2 per cent to $88.86 a barrel, the dollar gained broadly, gold rose 1 per cent and S&P 500 futures dropped 1 per cent. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi had warned Israel before Friday's strike that Tehran would deliver a "severe response" to any attack on its territory. 

Israel warned US before attack: Source

According to CNN, Israeli officials warned the Biden administration on Thursday that the strike would take place in the next 24 to 48 hours and assured that Iran's nuclear facilities would not be targeted. However, several Iranian nuclear sites are located in Isfahan province, including Natanz, centrepiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment program. State television described all sites in the area as “fully safe”.

No damage was caused in the overnight attack, a senior commander of Iran's Army Siavosh Mihandoust said on Friday, adding that the noise heard overnight in Isfahan was due to air defence systems targeting a "suspicious object". The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed on Friday there was no damage to Iran's nuclear sites in an alleged attack by Israel on Iran.

However, 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. It was speculated that Israel would target Iran's nuclear facilities if it came to a direct attack, as it has previously attempted to do so in the decades of shadow war between the two adversaries.

On Thursday, Iran told the United Nations Security Council that Israel "must be compelled to stop any further military adventurism against our interests" as the UN secretary-general warned earlier that the Middle East was in a moment of maximum peril. Israel has said it will retaliate against Iran's April 13 missile and drone attack, which Tehran says was carried out in response to a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Damascus earlier this month.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | Iran says it has shot down several drones over Isfahan, US officials warned by Israel prior to strike


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