Israel’s attack on Iran highlights Tehran’s ability to evade air defenses

Western and Iranian officials said Friday’s Israeli airstrike on Iran damaged air defense systems and sent a message that Israel could bypass and paralyze Iran’s defense systems undetected. The attack was said to be aimed at

The attack damaged a defensive battery near Natanz, a city in central Iran that is crucial to the country’s nuclear weapons program, two Western and two Iranian officials said. The attack, and its target revealed on Saturday, was in retaliation for Iran’s attack on Israel after Israel bombed its embassy in Damascus last week. But it used only a fraction of the firepower used by Iran to launch hundreds of drones and missiles into Israel.

Friday’s attack was the latest salvo in a series of retaliatory attacks between the two countries this month that have raised fears of a broader regional conflict. However, tensions appear to have eased due to the relatively limited scope of Israel’s attack and the subdued response from Iranian officials.

Iran and Israel have been waging a shadow war for years, and on April 1, Israeli warplanes killed seven Iranian officials, including three senior commanders, at Iranian diplomatic facilities in Syria. killed and the conflict intensified. Israel claims it was used as a military base. Iran responded last week with a barrage of drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles aimed at Israel, nearly all of which were shot down by Israel and its allies. However, the attack still rattled the Israeli public.

The attack was Iran’s first ever direct attack on Israeli soil, and exposed the long-running secret war between the two countries on land, air, sea, and cyberspace. Even as world leaders and Western allies, including the United States, rush to de-escalate the situation, the Israeli government has vowed to respond and urged Israel not to respond in a way that could lead to regional war.

Friday’s attack appeared to be aimed at sending a warning about Israel’s military capabilities, although Israeli leaders had nearly ordered a larger attack on Iran. As the situation continued, the tensions did not increase further.

Two Iranian officials who discussed the Israeli attack said Israel attacked an S-300 anti-aircraft system at a military base in Isfahan province. The official’s account is backed up by satellite images analyzed by The New York Times that show damaged radars on the S-300 system at Isfahan’s 8th Shekali Air Base.

It is unclear exactly what kind of weapon attacked the S-300 system. Three Western and two Iranian officials confirmed Friday that Israel had fired at least one missile from a drone and a fighter jet. Iranian officials have previously said the attack on the military base was carried out by a small drone and was likely launched from inside Iranian territory.

Two Western officials said the missile was fired from a fighter jet far from Israeli or Iranian airspace and that the weapon contained technology that could evade Iran’s radar defenses. Two Iranian officials said Friday that the military had not detected any drones, missiles or aircraft entering the country’s airspace.

Efforts to ease some tensions between Israel and Iran come as Israel’s war against Hamas, now in its sixth month, continued on Saturday, with reports of deadly attacks in southern Gaza continuing. There is.

Israeli airstrikes in Rafah on Saturday killed at least 10 civilians, including women and children, according to Palestinian state media, spreading fear in the region where more than 1 million Palestinians have fled. .

Palestinians have been preparing for an Israeli ground offensive in Rafah, the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip, for weeks. In the Rafah region, the majority of the region’s 2.2 million residents have been forced to flee their homes. More than 30,000 people have been killed by Israeli shelling and the ground invasion, local officials said.

Israeli airstrikes on Saturday hit two homes, and missiles and artillery struck other parts of Rafah and surrounding areas, Wafa news agency said. The Israeli military did not immediately comment on the attack.

“It was like an earthquake,” Mohammad al-Masri, 31, said of the shaking caused by the airstrike.

Al-Masri, an accountant who was sheltering with his family in a tent in a large encampment in Rafah, said the first attack occurred just after midnight, followed by a second attack shortly after.

“When we hear about these strikes, we don’t know what to do,” he said. “Everyone says the same thing: ‘Where should I go?'”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israeli forces planned to invade Rafah with the aim of “completely eliminating the Hamas battalion” and destroying the tunnel network. World leaders, including President Biden, have urged Israel not to invade the city, citing the risk of heavy civilian casualties.

Some 500 miles away, Hamas’ political leader Ismail Haniyeh traveled to Turkey on Saturday to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has strongly criticized Israel and its leaders since the start of the war in October.

Turkey was once Israel’s closest friend in the Muslim world, but relations have become increasingly volatile since Israel’s invasion of Gaza. Mr. Erdogan supports the Palestinian cause, which enjoys widespread public support in Turkey, and has defended Hamas and strongly criticized Israel and its leaders since the Oct. 7 attack.

On Saturday, Erdogan’s office announced that the two leaders “discussed Israeli attacks on Palestinian lands, primarily Gaza.” What is needed for humanitarian aid to reach Gaza properly and without interruption? ”

After the meeting, Erdogan told reporters he would take every opportunity to draw attention to the suffering in the Gaza Strip and said he ultimately hoped Israel would be held accountable.

“Israel will definitely pay the price for the atrocities it has inflicted on the Palestinians someday,” Erdogan told reporters.

An explosion early Saturday at a military base in Iraq’s Babylon province used by the Iranian-backed militant group Harakat al-Nujaba killed one person and injured eight others, the Iraqi military command said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the strike.

In a carefully worded statement, the Iraqi military said the explosion was not caused by a missile or drone strike. But military officials said privately that at least one projectile appeared to have hit within the base’s boundaries. Video taken shortly after the explosion and posted on social media showed damaged buildings and a large crater filled with debris. A second video showed several parts of the base on fire.

U.S. forces have previously attacked Iranian-backed insurgents in Iraq. stated in a statement Immediately after the attack, it announced that it had not taken part in any attacks anywhere in Iraq. The Israeli military declined to comment.

liam stack, raja abdurrahim and Alyssa J. Rubin Contributed to the report.

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