Iran fires air defense batteries at Isfahan air base and nuclear site after drones spotted

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates April 19 (AP): Iran fired air defenses at a major air base and a nuclear site near the central city of Isfahan after spotting drones early Friday morning, raising fears of a possible Israeli strike in retaliation for Tehran’s unprecedented drone-and-missile assault on the country.

It was unclear if the country came under attack, as no Iranian official directly acknowledged the possibility and Israel’s military did not respond to a request for comment. However, tensions have been high since the Saturday assault on Israel amid its war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip and its own strikes targeting Iran in Syria.

U.S. officials declined to comment as of early Friday, but American broadcast networks quoting unnamed U.S. officials said Israel carried out the attack. The New York Times quoted anonymous Israeli officials claiming the assault, which came on Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s 85th birthday.

Air defense batteries fired in several provinces over reports of drones being in the air, state television reported.

In particular, IRNA said air defenses fired at a major air base in Isfahan, which long has been home to Iran’s fleet of American-made F-14 Tomcats — purchased before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Tasnim later published a video from one of its reporters, who said he was in the southeastern Zerdenjan area of Isfahan, near its “nuclear energy mountain.” The footage showed two different anti-aircraft gun positions, and details of the video corresponded with known features of the site of Iran’s Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan.

“At 4:45, we heard gunshots. There was nothing going on,” he said. “It was the air defense, these guys that you’re watching, and over there too.”

The facility at Isfahan operates three small Chinese-supplied research reactors, as well as handling fuel production and other activities for Iran’s civilian nuclear program.

Isfahan also is home to sites associated with Iran’s nuclear program, including its underground Natanz enrichment site, which has been repeatedly targeted by suspected Israeli sabotage attacks.

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