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Iran plays down reports of Israeli attack

Shabnam von Hein
April 19, 2024

Iranian authorities say three small drones were shot down by air defenses, while claiming that US media reports of an Israeli attack have been exaggerated.

A woman watches an Iranian news TV channel in Tehran
Tensions between Israel and Iran are the highest in decadesImage: Hossein Beris/Middle East Images/IMAGO

"It seems that the American media have been dreaming of an Israeli attack on Iran," Hossein Dalirian, spokesman for the Iranian Space Agency, posted on social media Friday morning after explosions were reported near the city of Isfahan. 

He added that Iranian air defense systems had shot down three small drones that morning. "Nowhere in the world would this be called an attack," the post said.

Earlier, US broadcasters CNN and CBS News had reported, citing a high-ranking US government representative, that Israel had carried out a military strike in Iran.

The purported strike on Friday was in response to Iran's drone and missile attack on Israel last weekend, The Washington Post reported, quoting an unnamed Israeli government official.

In retaliation for a missile attack on an Iranian consulate building in Damascus, Iran attacked Israel with hundreds of drones and missiles on April 14. According to Israeli reports, almost all the drones and missiles launched by Iran were intercepted.

Suspected Israeli attack activates defenses in Iran

All quiet in Isfahan?

On Friday morning, three explosions were reportedly heard in the vicinity of a large military airfield near the central Iranian city of Isfahan, state media in Iran reported. Isfahan is home to various military targets, as well as parts of Iran's nuclear facilities.

It is not yet clear what happened in Isfahan. Scenes broadcast on state media from the city on Friday morning showed people going about their business as usual.  

Friday is Iran's only day of the week off work and the streets were almost empty: people were shown walking through parks. Traffic was described as normal, and the airport is also said to have reopened after flights were briefly canceled or suspended early Friday.

A roundabout in Iran's Isfahan with mountains in the background
A screen shot of Iranian state TV showing calm scenes in IsfahanImage: IRANIAN STATE TV (IRIB)/AFP

Isfahan is home to a nuclear research center. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Friday in Vienna that no nuclear facilities in Iran had been damaged.

In television interviews, Iranian authorities emphasized that air defense systems had intercepted three drones. There were no reports of a missile attack.

The drones are said to have been mini quadcopters, similar to those used to carry out an attack on an airbase in western Iran in February 2022, in which numerous Iranian Air Force drones were destroyed.

The use of modern technology in the "shadow war" between Iran and Israel is nothing new. In November 2020, Iranian nuclear physicist Mohsen Fachrisadeh was killed near Tehran by a remote-controlled killer robot.

Strict control of social media

There are hardly any photos of citizen journalists from Isfahan online. Since the beginning of the week, the Revolutionary Guard's secret service has been taking action against anyone who expresses criticism of the Islamic Republic's policy towards Israel.

Many ordinary Iranians are afraid of a possible war between Iran and Israel. In private conversations, many emphasize that they have no sympathy for the government's hostile policy towards Israel.

On Sunday, April 14, immediately after the attack on Israel, the Revolutionary Guard Intelligence Service published a message in state media calling on all residents of the country to report "any solidarity" with Israel on social networks as soon as possible.

In recent days, numerous activists and journalists have reported that they have been called, warned, or even threatened by anonymous people to ensure that they neither hurt the "feelings of the nation" online nor criticize Iran's policy on Israel.

As tensions continue, Iran is in the midst of an information war — finding accurate information from within the country remains difficult.

Iran explosions: Are we seeing Israel's retaliation?

This article was originally written in German