JERUSALEM — The Israeli military carried out strikes inside Iran early Friday, an Israeli official said, in retaliation for an Iranian barrage of missiles and drones launched last Saturday.

The scale of the attack appeared limited and it was not clear what damage it caused, but one official — speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military matters — said it was intended to send a message to Iran that Israel had the ability to strike inside the country.

Iranian state media said air defense systems had intercepted “three small drones” in Isfahan province and that no significant damage had resulted. The area is home to an air base and also research facilities associated with Iran’s nuclear research program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iran’s nuclear program, said Friday that none of the sites were damaged.

A person familiar with a briefing on the attack who spoke on the condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak about it said the strike was “carefully calibrated.”

Israel has signaled that it would respond militarily to Iran’s launch of more than 300 attack drones, ballistic and cruise missiles. But it has been under pressure from the Biden administration and other allies to show restraint to avoid provoking a wider regional conflict.

Israel’s war cabinet has been reviewing a list of target options provided by the Israel Defense Forces. The body was seeking to craft an action plan that would deter Iran without causing significant casualties or damage so extensive that Tehran would be forced to answer with another round of attacks, according to an Israeli official familiar with the deliberations.

Reports of explosions in Isfahan province began appearing on social media about 4 a.m. local time. Iranian military officials said air defense networks in the area were activated and that a system at a military base in Isfahan “was used for an interception,” according to state media. There was no damage from the incident, the report said.

Israeli military and government officials declined to comment publicly. Details of the incident remained vague Friday morning and Israeli officials said privately that no official comment was likely in the coming hours, if at all. The military did not warn civilians to seek shelter Friday or to take extraordinary precautions as the country prepares for the Passover holiday.

Iran, too, was muted in its comments. State-run Press TV said the booms heard near Isfahan were the sounds of the air defense system being triggered by the three small drones. Other stations broadcast serene images of the central Iranian city beneath headlines reading “the situation is normal.”

Isfahan, a province in central Iran, is the site of the largest nuclear research complex in Iran, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative; it is also the site of a military base and the Isfahan airport, Iranian media reported. State news agency IRNA said nuclear facilities in the province were undamaged.

Iran suspended flights from a number of airports shortly after reports of explosions, according to Iranian state media. The news reports did not explain the cancellations, but airspace in the region was similarly closed last weekend when Iran launched drone and missile attacks on Israel.

By 6 a.m. local time, the skies above western Iran were largely empty, flight tracker website Flight Radar 24 showed. Some flights appeared to sharply divert while over Iran, including FlyDubai flights from Istanbul and Zagreb to Dubai.

Hawkish Israelis had been calling for a harsh military answer to Iran’s Saturday attack on Israeli soil, even though Israeli, U.S. and Jordanian forces intercepted more than 99 percent of the weapons that launched successfully. A seven-year-old Israeli girl from a Bedouin family in the south was the only casualty.

It was unclear Friday whether the apparently limited action over Iran would satisfy those demands.

Israeli officials followed a gag order in the hours after the attack on Iran, but Tally Gotliv, a far-right firebrand from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, posted an apparent reference to the strike on social media: “Good morning, people of Israel. This is a morning in which the head is held high with pride. Israel is a strong and powerful country. May we regain the power of deterrence.”

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who had called on Israel to go “crazy” on Iran in response, posted a one-word comment on X that translates as “weak.”

Iran said its attack Saturday was in response to Israel’s (officially unacknowledged) strike on an Iranian embassy compound in Damascus two weeks earlier that killed seven members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Harris reported from Washington, George from Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. Kelsey Ables, Frances Vinall and Andrew Jeong in Seoul and Shira Rubin in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.





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