Isfahan, a city in central Iran that was the target of a drone strike Saturday.
By FARNAZ FASSIHI
Iran’s defense ministry said that it had thwarted an attack Saturday on one of its munition centers in the central city of Isfahan by shooting down three drones.
In a statement, the ministry said the attempted attack occurred about 11:30 p.m local time with quadcopter drones and it reported no casualties. It said the facility’s roof had sustained minor damage.
Video footage posted on social media by witnesses showed a large explosion erupting in the night sky above the military facility, which is located on a major road in northern Isfahan. A man standing on the side of the road as traffic whizzed by is heard on the video saying anti-aircraft missiles were fired before an explosion was heard. “It’s a drone, it’s a drone,” he said of the target.
State television said authorities were investigating what was behind the attempted attack on the munitions center and the extent of the damage.
But some Telegram channels, including that of Sepah Cyberi, which is affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, accused Israel and its agents inside the county of being behind the attack and warned “experience has shown that Iran will retaliate.”
“Wait for rogue drones hitting Zionist oil tankers,” its posting said.
Iran and Israel have been engaged in a shadow war on land, sea, air and in cyberspace for the past three years, with Israel carrying out strikes on Iranian military and nuclear facilities and assassinating scientists and a senior military official.
During the tenure of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Israel also started targeting Iranian defense and military officials and key infrastructure. Bennett called it the “octopus doctrine” of striking inside Iran to damage its capacity to arm proxy militias in the region hostile to the Jewish state.
If Israel was behind Saturday’s attack, it would mark the first known covert operation in Iran ordered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a known hawk on Iran, since he returned to office last month. It would also suggest that he will continue the policy of his predecessor to expand the target list inside Iran.
Iran has retaliated to such attacks in the past by targeting Israeli-owned ships with drones in the Persian Gulf and in the Red Sea and by firing ballistic missiles into Kurdish northern Iraq where, it said, Israel planned and carried out a drone attack on an Iranian drone factory in March 2022. And Tehran has also carried out cyberattacks on Israeli civilians.
In its statement after Saturday’s attack, Iran’s defense ministry said “such blind-sighted attacks will have no bearing on the country’s development.”
Local media said the attack involved three quadcopter suicide drones, and it was similar to a strike carried out against a nuclear centrifuge factory belonging to Iran’s Atomic Agency in June 2021 and one carried out against a Hezbollah facility in Beirut in August 2019. The latter attack destroyed what Israeli officials described as machinery vital to Hezbollah’s missile production efforts.
Quadcopter drones, so named because they have four rotors, have a short flight range and in Saturday’s attack they were believed to have taken off from inside Iran. The origin of the drones involved in Saturday’s attack was not yet clear but because of Isfahan’s distance from Iran’s international borders the attack was also likely organized from inside Iran.
The drone attack comes at a tense time in Iran, which has faced more than four months of protests against the rule of the Islamic Republic. The government has responded with brutal crackdowns, including mass arrests and the execution of four protesters.