Israel Launched Missiles as Well as Drones at Iran, Officials Say

Israel Launched Missiles as Well as Drones at Iran, Officials Say

Israeli warplanes fired missiles on Iran during a retaliatory strike early Friday morning, one Western official and two Iranian officials said, suggesting that the attack included more advanced firepower than initial reports indicated.

It was not immediately clear the types of missiles used, from where they were fired, whether any were intercepted by Iran’s defenses or where they landed.

The Western official and the Iranian officials requested anonymity to discuss classified information.

Previously, Iranian officials said Friday’s attack on a military base in central Iran was conducted by small aerial drones, most likely launched from inside Iranian territory. A separate group of small drones, they said soon after the attack, was shot down in the region of Tabriz, roughly 500 miles north of Isfahan.

Israel has not publicly claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack and would not comment on the use of planes or missiles.

Israel’s strike came in response to an Iranian attack last weekend in which Iran fired hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel. A majority of the weapons used in that salvo were fired from Iranian territory and intercepted by Israel and its allies before causing any damage.

By contrast, the Iranian officials said, Iran’s military did not detect anything entering Iran’s airspace on Friday, including drones, missiles and aircraft. Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported that no missile attacks occurred and that Iran’s air defense system was not activated.

Iran’s decision to launch its strike primarily from its own soil last week was perceived by Israel as an escalation in the countries’ long-simmering shadow war. The Iranians believe the large salvo is helping with deterrence. Throughout the yearslong conflict, the two countries have traded clandestine attacks, including targeted assassinations, cyberattacks and conventional strikes conducted from and within third countries.

Iran’s attack last week was itself prompted by an Israeli strike on April 1, in which Israeli aircraft killed several Iranian armed forces commanders in Syria.

By using drones seemingly launched from inside Iran’s territory rather than its own, Israel hinted at a willingness to turn down the temperature on the conflict while also demonstrating an ability to conduct attacks that Iran could not detect.

One Iranian official, a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said that even though the strike did little damage, the likelihood that drones were fired from under Iran’s nose sent a message about Israel’s capabilities.

A guided missile fired from an undetected warplane, even if it landed outside Iranian territory, would most likely deliver a similar threat.

Officials from both countries remained largely quiet about Friday’s attack, a gesture that appeared aimed at de-escalating a conflict some fear could spiral into a broader regional war. Israel’s silence on the attack, an Iranian official said, would allow Tehran to treat the strike as it had comparable previous attacks and not prompt an immediate response.

Mahdi Mohammadi, a senior adviser to Iran’s Parliament speaker, said that Israel’s limited attack on Iran showed that Iran had achieved its goal of deterrence. Israel’s refusal to openly claim responsibility, he said, amounts to a victory for Iran.

Israel’s attack, he said on the messaging app Telegram, was meant to show that it had the “capability to access Iran but in practice it also showed that it has accepted that it should not repeat its miscalculation.”

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