Iran says it will not respond to Israeli attack on air force base

Tehran’s signal that it will not retaliate allays fears of all-out war in the Middle East

The long-awaited response to Iran’s missile and drone assault on Israel last weekend came in the early hours of Friday morning when an Iranian air force base near Isfahan, 350km south of Tehran, was attacked.

According to the American ABC News channel, Israeli aircraft fired three missiles from outside Iran at an air defence radar site near Isfahan. The defence radar was reported to be protecting the Natanz nuclear facility.

Israeli leaders remained silent, but an Israeli official told the Washington Post that the strike “was intended to signal to Iran that Israel had the ability to strike inside the country”.

Iran downplayed the severity of the event, declared that no damage was caused, and was quick to declare there would be no response, easing fears that the Middle East could be plunged into a dangerous all-out war between the two regional powers.


Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the “mini drones” that Israel reportedly launched at Iran “did not cause any damage or casualties” in Isfahan.

The Israeli leadership and the population as a whole had been split on whether – and how – to respond to last Saturday night’s attack, when Iran launched some 350 ballistic and cruise missiles and explosive drones, although only a handful landed in Israel.

Tehran launched those attacks in response to a presumed Israeli air strike on April 1st that destroyed a building in Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus and killed several Iranian officers, including a top general.

It appears that Friday’s strike on Iran will be enough to appease Israelis who demanded retaliation without inflicting so much damage that Tehran felt obliged to carry out its threats to strike back.

Iran’s state-affiliated Tasnim news agency initially denied there had been a foreign attack on the Isfahan district or anywhere else, but Isfahan, Shiraz and Tehran flights were cancelled for a few hours.

A US administration official told CNN that Washington had received prior notification of the attack. He said the administration had neither approved nor tried to prevent the Israeli action. US secretary of state Antony Blinken said Washington is committed to Israel’s security, but was not involved in any offensive operation.

Isfahan province is home to several nuclear facilities, including the Natanz uranium enrichment plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed there was no damage to Iran’s nuclear sites.

Israel has said it will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear bomb, and the choice of Isfahan as a target appears to be a demonstration of capabilities and a message to the Iranian regime.

Foreign ministers from the G7, at the end of a three-day summit on the Italian island of Capri on Friday, said they would continue to work to prevent the conflict between Israel and Iran from escalating.

Despite strict instructions to Israeli officials not to comment, far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir suggested in a social media post on Friday morning that the air strike on Iran was too limited, uploading a one-word post – the Hebrew equivalent of “Feeble!” – to X. Iran’s Tasnim news agency commented on the post, saying: “The authorities in Israel are making fools of themselves.”

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid said: “With an unforgivable tweet of one word, Ben-Gvir manages to smear and embarrass Israel, from Tehran to Washington.”

The US and the European Union on Friday imposed sanctions against people accused of being behind violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. They included Bentzi Gopstein, a prominent far-right Israeli activist and adviser to Mr Ben-Gvir on police affairs, along with three other extremists. Two far-right NGOs were also sanctioned.

At the same time as the Isfahan attack was mounted, Israel also attacked radar installations in southern Syria.

In a separate development, four Palestinian militants were killed during an Israeli military raid in Tulcarem in the northern occupied West Bank on Friday.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem