Drone Strikes in Iran Blamed on Israel; Ukraine Claims Attack Meant to Stop Drones Being Sent to Russia
Edited by: TJVNews.com
A drone attack on an Iranian military facility that resulted in a large explosion in the center of the city of Isfahan on Saturday was the work of the Mossad, Israel’s premier intelligence agency, according to senior intelligence officials who were familiar with the dialogue between Israel and the United States about the incident, the New York Times reported.
The Iranian Defense Ministry offered no information on who it suspected carried out the attack, which came as a refinery fire separately broke out in the country’s northwest and a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck nearby, killing three people, the AP reported.
However, Tehran has been targeted in suspected Israeli drone strikes amid a shadow war with its Mideast rival as its nuclear deal with world powers collapsed, the AP reported. Meanwhile, tensions also remain high with neighboring Azerbaijan after a gunman attacked that country’s embassy in Tehran, killing its security chief and wounding two others.
Officially, Iran says the attack failed. However, sources and videos circulating online have indicated that the attack was far more successful than the Islamic Republic admits, the Jerusalem Post reported.
There were four explosions at the site, which can even be witnessed on social media, against a facility developing advanced weapons, and the damage goes far beyond the “minor roof damage” that the Islamic Republic is claiming and which it has falsely claimed before also in other incidents in recent years, according to the JPost report.
Details on the Isfahan attack, which happened around 11:30 p.m. Saturday, remained scarce. The AP reported that a Defense Ministry statement described three drones being launched at the facility, with two of them successfully shot down. A third apparently made it through to strike the building, causing “minor damage” to its roof and wounding no one, the ministry said.
The state-run IRNA news agency later described the drones as “quadcopters equipped with bomblets.” Quadcopters, which get their name from having four rotors, typically operate from short ranges by remote control. The AP reported that Iranian state television later aired footage of debris from the drones, which resembled commercially available quadcopters.
The facility’s purpose was not clear, and neither was how much damage the strike caused, the NYT reported. But Isfahan is a major center of missile production, research and development for Iran, including the assembly of many of its Shahab medium-range missiles, which can reach Israel and beyond, the report indicated.
Weeks ago, American officials publicly identified Iran as the primary supplier of drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine, and they said they believed Russia was also trying to obtain Iranian missiles to use in the conflict, the NYT reported.
In Ukraine, which accuses Iran of supplying hundreds of drones to Russia to attack civilian targets in Ukrainian cities far from the front, a senior aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky linked the incident directly to the war there, the Jerusalem Post reported.
“Explosive night in Iran,” Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted. “Did warn you.”
Iran has acknowledged sending drones to Russia but says they were sent before Moscow’s invasion. The JPost reported that the Kremlin denies its forces use Iranian drones in Ukraine, although many have been shot down and recovered there.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow “is concerned over the new spiral of violence in the zone of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which is fraught with the resumption of a full-scale armed confrontation leading to further casualties and damages,” according to the TASS news agency.
State TV aired mobile phone video apparently showing the moment that drone struck along the busy Imam Khomeini Expressway that heads northwest out of Isfahan, one of several ways for drivers to go to the holy city of Qom and Tehran, Iran’s capital, the AP reported. A small crowd stood gathered, drawn by anti-aircraft fire, watching as an explosion and sparks struck a dark building.
“Oh my God! That was a drone, wasn’t it?” the man filming shouts. “Yeah, it was a drone.”
Those there fled after the strike.
That footage of the strike, as well as footage of the aftermath analyzed by The Associated Press, corresponded to a site near Minoo Street in northwestern Isfahan that’s near a shopping center that includes a carpet and an electronics store, the AP reported. Later state TV footage confirmed the location and showed two points of damage at the facility’s roof, likely from the explosion.
The Defense Ministry only called the site a “workshop,” without elaborating. Isfahan, some 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of Tehran, is home to both a large air base built for its fleet of American-made F-14 fighter jets and its Nuclear Fuel Research and Production Center, the AP reported.
The attack comes after Iran’s Intelligence Ministry in July claimed to have broken up a plot to target sensitive sites around Isfahan. The AP reported that a segment aired on Iranian state TV in October included purported confessions by alleged members of Komala, a Kurdish opposition party that is exiled from Iran and now lives in Iraq, that they planned to target a military aerospace facility in Isfahan after being trained by Israel’s Mossad intelligence service.
The strike came just as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was beginning a visit to Israel, his first since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to office as prime minister, the NYT reported. The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, William J. Burns, visited Israel last week, though it is not clear anything about the operation in Isfahan was discussed.
American officials quickly sent out word on Sunday morning that the United States was not responsible for the attack, the NYT reported. One official confirmed that it had been conducted by Israel but did not have details about the target. Sometimes Israel gives the United States advance warning of an attack or informs American officials as an operation is being launched. It is unclear what happened in this case.
Blinken said all options are on the table to prevent the emergence of a nuclear Iran as he prepared to fly from Cairo to Jerusalem, just after Israel allegedly attacked a munitions depot in the Iranian city of Isfahan. The Jerusalem Post reported.
He spoke about Iran in an interview with the Dubai-based news outlet Al Arabiya that was published Sunday.
Blinken said that Washington preferred a diplomatic option to prevent a nuclear Iran and ending its aggression but that “all options are available on the table to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, “ the JPost reported.
The NYT reported that Isfahan is the site of four small nuclear research facilities, all supplied by China many years ago. But the facility that was struck on Saturday was in the middle of the city and did not appear to be nuclear-related.
In a related development, drones attacked a convoy of trucks in eastern Syria Sunday night shortly after it crossed into the country from Iraq, Syrian opposition activists and a pro-government radio station said. There was no immediate word on casualties, the AP reported.
The strike comes amid heightening tension between Iran and its rivals in the region.
The AP reported that it was not immediately clear who was behind the attack on the convoy in the Syrian border region of Boukamal, which is a stronghold of Iran-backed militias.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the drones appear to have been from the U.S.-led coalition, adding that they targeted six refrigerated trucks, as was reported by the AP. The group said there were casualties and ambulances rushed to the area.
Another activist said the strike hit a convoy of trucks of Iran-backed militiamen. The AP also reported that Omar Abu Layla, a Europe-based activist from Deir el-Zour who runs a group that monitors developments, tweeted that there was no immediate word on casualties.
The NYT reported that on August 2019, Israel sent an exploding quadcopter into the heart of a Hezbollah-dominated neighborhood in Beirut, Lebanon, to destroy what Israeli officials described as machinery vital to the production of precision missiles.
In June 2021, quadcopters exploded at one of Iran’s main manufacturing centers for centrifuges, which purify uranium at the country’s two major uranium enrichment facilities, Fordow and Natanz, according to the NYT report. That attack was in Karaj, on the outskirts of Tehran. Iran claimed that there was no damage to the site, but satellite images showed evidence of significant damage.
A year ago, six quadcopters exploded at Kermanshah, Iran’s main manufacturing and storage plant for military drones, the NYT reported.
And in May 2022, a drone strike targeted a highly sensitive military site outside Tehran where Iran develops missile, nuclear and drone technology.
The targets — presumably including the military facility in Isfahan — have been chosen in part to shake the Iranian leadership, because they demonstrate intelligence about the locations of key sites, even those hidden in the middle of cities, the NYT report indicated. (Additional reporting by: Fern Sidman)