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No immediate plans for retaliation, says senior Iranian official after reported Israeli attack

Israel reportedly launched a drone attack in a tit-for-tat response to Iran's 300 missiles and drones fired on Saturday as tensions escalate in the Middle East. However, Iran has denied any external attack and says it shot down all drones over Isfahan.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Tehran Updated on: April 19, 2024 14:57 IST
Iran Israel conflict, Israel attacks Iran
Image Source : REUTERS Iran's air defence systems and authorities on guard after reported Israeli attack.

Tehran: Iran has no plan for immediate retaliation against Israel, a senior Iranian official told Reuters on Friday, hours after Israel reportedly launched an apparent retaliatory attack on Iranian soil, as explosions were heard in the central city of Isfahan, where several nuclear facilities are located. While Iran has denied any external attack, the confrontation has fuelled widespread concerns that the ongoing conflict in Gaza is escalating into a full-blown war in the Middle East.

"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 Iranian official said on condition of anonymity. Several countries have again urged for de-escalation of tensions after the Israeli attacks on Iran were reported. It remained unclear whether Iran was under attack.

Israel launched an attack on Iranian soil on Friday, sources said, in the latest tit-for-tat exchange between the two arch-foes. The United States received a notification before Israel's attack, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters, which came days after Iran launched an unprecedented strike on Israel with a barrage of drones and missiles. Most of those were shot down.

Iran denies attack, says it has shot down drones

However, 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, and the Israeli military has not responded to a request for comment. 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". An analyst told Iranian media that mini drones flown by "infiltrators from inside Iran" had been shot down by air defences in Isfahan. There was no mention of Israel in official comments and news reports.

France is calling for de-escalation in the Middle-East crisis, Deputy French Foreign Minister Jean-Noel Barrot said on Friday. "All I can say is that France's position is to call on all actors for de-escalation and restraint," Barrot told Sud Radio.  Britain's Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said he hoped that de-escalation between Israel and Iran was still possible.

On the other hand, Israel's hard right Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir issued the one-word posting "Feeble!" on social media platform X on Friday after the attack. Ben-Gvir, a firebrand leader in the governing coalition, is one of the ministers who has called for a 'crushing 'attack on Iran for firing 300 missiles and drones in retaliation for a suspected Israeli airstrike on the Iranian embassy in Syria. He has also threatened to withdraw support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his policies in Gaza.

Nuclear sites in Iran undamaged

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)  said there was no damage to Iran's nuclear sites in the alleged attack by Israel on Iran, confirming Iranian reports. The Natanz nuclear site, the centrepiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment program, is in Isfahan province. Tehran says its nuclear work is peaceful, but the West believes is aimed at building a weapon.

However, after the strikes, Iran was compelled to close its airports in Tehran, Shiraz and Isfahan and clear flights from the western portion of its airspace for a few hours. The US Embassy in Jerusalem restricted US government employees from travel outside Jerusalem, greater Tel Aviv and Beersheba, "out of an abundance of caution."

Shares and bond yields sank in Asia trade while safe-haven currencies, gold and crude oil jumped. Brent LCOc1 futures surged as much as 4.2 per cent on concerns Middle East supply could be disrupted before shedding some gains. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares .MIAP00000PUS dropped 2 per cent, after earlier diving as much as 2.6 per cent, and US. stock futures EScv1 pointed 1 per cent lower.

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 Reuters)

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