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Iran says Israel drones ‘like children’s toy’ as Iraq investigates military base explosion

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Iran’s foreign minister played down Israel’s suspected limited military attack on Friday, claiming it “was not a strike” and refusing to acknowledge Israeli involvement.

“It has not been proven to us that there is a connection between this and Israel,” Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told NBC.

“They were more like toys that our children play with – not drones,” he added.

Meanwhile, an Israeli official said it was intended only to convey to Iran that Israel has the ability to hit targets inside the country.

The attack appeared to target an Iranian Air Force base near the city of Isfahan, deep inside the country, but without striking any strategic sites or causing major damage.

It comes as a man was killed at another base being used by Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).

Two security sources said it was not known who was responsible for the air strike. A US official said there had been no US military activity in Iraq.

One PMF fighter was killed and six were wounded, according to sources at the nearby hospital in Hilla.

Key Points

  • ‘More like toys’: Iran downplays Isfahan drone strike

  • Explosion at Iranian-aligned Iraqi army unit in Baghdad

  • Blinken says US not involved in Israeli strike on Iran, calls for calm

  • Man threatens to blow himself up at French Iran consulate

  • ‘Material losses’ reported in Syria, state-run media says

More than 14 Palestinians killed in Israeli raid on refugee camp, Palestinian authorities say

04:10 , Shweta Sharma

Israeli forces killed 14 Palestinians during a raid at the Nur al-Shams refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said.

Among the fatalities, an ambulance driver was killed as he went to pick up wounded from a separate attack by violent Jewish settlers, it added.

Israeli forces began an extended raid in the early hours of Friday in the Nur Shams area, near the flashpoint Palestinian city of Tulkarm and were still exchanging fire with armed fighters well into Saturday.

Israeli military vehicles massed and bursts of gunfire were heard, while at least three drones were seen hovering above Nur Shams, an area housing refugees and their descendants from the 1948 war that accompanied the creation of the state of Israel.

On Saturday, Palestinian health authorities said at least 14 Palestinians, two of whom were identified by Palestinian sources and officials as a gunman and a 16 year-old boy, were killed during the raid, one of the heaviest casualty totals in the West Bank in months. Another man was killed on Friday.

How many nuclear weapons do Israel and Iran have amid fears of wider conflict

04:00 , Tara Cobham

On Friday morning, Iranians walked down the streets of Tehran next to posters adorning the country’s national flag with three depictions of missiles being fired from it.

“Israel is as weak as a spider web”, one poster read. Just hours before, explosions were heard over an airbase 200 miles south of the city in Isfahan.

Tehran’s defences had shot down three drones launched from over 1,200 miles away in Israel – said to be part of Netanyahu’s “response” for an earlier attack by Iran which saw over 300 missiles and drones fired at the Jewish state.

Alexander Butler reports:

How many nuclear weapons do Israel and Iran have?

US House passes $95b Ukraine, Israel aid package

03:57 , Shweta Sharma

The US House of Representatives has finally passed billions of dollars of aid to Ukraine and Israel amid resistance from Republican hardliners.

A broad $95b legislative package providing security assistance to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, was passed yesterday with $26b pledged for Israel.

The Senate is set to begin considering the House-passed bill on Tuesday, with some preliminary votes that afternoon. Final passage was expected sometime next week, which would clear the way for Biden to sign it into law.

The House’s actions during a rare Saturday session put on display some cracks in what generally is solid support for Israel within Congress. Recent months have seen progressive Democrats express anger with Israel‘s government and its conduct of the war in Gaza.

Saturday’s vote, in which the Israel aid was passed 366-58, had 37 Democrats and 21 Republicans in opposition.

US says a UN agency has agreed to help in distribution of aid to Gaza via sea route

03:00 , Tara Cobham

The UN World Food Program has agreed to help deliver aid for the starving civilians of Gaza once the US military completes a pier for transporting the humanitarian assistance by sea, US officials said Friday.

The involvement of the UN agency could help resolve one of the major obstacles facing the US-planned project — the reluctance of aid groups to handle on-the-ground distribution of food and other badly needed goods in Gaza absent significant changes by Israel.

An Israeli military attack on 1 April that killed seven aid workers from the World Central Kitchen intensified international criticism of Israel for failing to provide security for humanitarian workers or allow adequate amounts of aid across its land borders.

Ellen Knickmeyer and Lolita C. Baldor report:

US says a UN agency has agreed to help in distribution of aid to Gaza via sea route

Recap: Watch as explosions heard and blast of light seen over Iran city in suspected Israel attack

02:00 , Tara Cobham

What Israel’s suspected strike inside Iran tells us about Netanyahu

01:00 , Tara Cobham

The conflict between Israel and Iran, fought out often in secret and through proxies, has now erupted with Israel suspected to have carried out strikes deep inside Iran six days after Tehran’s attack with more than 350 drones and missiles.

Explosions were heard near the central city of Isfahan, which has a large airbase, a major missile production complex and number of nuclear facilities.

Videos from the city showed orange flashes in the night sky, along with sounds of what appeared to be sustained bursts of anti-aircraft artillery.

World Affairs Editor Kim Sengupta reports:

What Israel’s strike inside Iran tells us about Netanyahu – Analysis

Recap: Watch as Sunak calls for ‘calm heads’ to prevail after reports of Israel attack on Iran

Sunday 21 April 2024 00:00 , Tara Cobham

Editorial: Israel and Iran must not let these violent skirmishes turn into war

Saturday 20 April 2024 23:00 , Tara Cobham

Is this not how wars start? Conventionally, one sovereign state deliberately bombing the embassy of another sovereign state in a third country would be a reason to go to war, and a lawful one.

This is indeed what happened on 1 April, when Israel destroyed a building within the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus, Syria. Iran, however, did not declare war in true 19th-century style. It instead launched a huge one-night bombardment of assorted missiles at Israel, almost all of which were dealt with before they could land through intervention by Israel and other, friendly, air forces, with the fabled Iron Dome anti-missile defence system working impeccably.

Again, even though the Iranian assault turned out to be more a show of Israeli than Iranian strength, that attempted bombardment would at least notionally serve as a perfectly adequate casus belli for Israel. Yet it provoked Israel “only” to retaliate via a precisely targeted aerial assault on a Revolutionary Guard airbase and munitions store – more than likely from whence the Iranians had dispatched their own drones towards Israel days before.

Read more here:

Israel and Iran must not let these violent skirmishes turn into war

Israel and Iran’s apparent strikes and counterstrikes give new insights into both militaries

Saturday 20 April 2024 22:00 , Tara Cobham

Israel demonstrated its military dominance over adversary Iran in its apparent precision strikes that hit near military and nuclear targets deep in the heart of the country, meeting little significant challenge from Iran’s defenses and providing the world with new insights into both militaries’ capabilities.

The international community, Israel and Iran all signaled hopes that Friday’s airstrikes would end what has been a dangerous 19-day run of strikes and counterstrikes, a highly public test between two deep rivals that had previously stopped short of most direct confrontation.

The move into open fighting began April 1 with the suspected Israeli killing of Iranian generals at an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria. That prompted Iran’s retaliatory barrage last weekend of more than 300 missiles and drones that the U.S., Israel and regional and international partners helped bat down without significant damage in Israel. And then came Friday’s apparent Israeli strike.

Ellen Knickmeyer reports:

Israel and Iran’s apparent strikes and counterstrikes give new insights into both militaries

Israeli forces kill 13 Palestinians in West Bank raid, Palestinian health ministry says

Saturday 20 April 2024 21:00 , Tara Cobham

Israeli forces have killed 13 Palestinians since beginning a raid on Tulkarm city and Nur Shams refugee camp in the West Bank from Thursday, the Palestinian health ministry said on Saturday.

Iranian attack damaged taxiway at Israeli air base, satellite image shows

Saturday 20 April 2024 20:00 , Tara Cobham

An Iranian attack on an Israeli desert air base during Tehran’s unprecedented assault on the country damaged a taxiway, a satellite image shows.

The overall damage done to Nevatim air base in southern Israel was minor despite Iran launching hundreds of drones, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

The Planet Labs PBC image, taken on Friday for the Associated Press, shows the repaired taxiway near hangars at the southern part of Nevatim air base, about 40 miles south of Jerusalem.

The daily newspaper Haaretz, which published lower-resolution images of the site on Thursday, identified the hangars nearby as housing C-130 cargo aircraft flown by transport squadrons.

The satellite image corresponds to footage earlier released by the Israeli military, which showed construction equipment near the damaged taxiway. A hangar in the background of the video mirrors those seen nearby.

Other images released by the Israeli military showed a crater in the sand and damage under what appeared to be a wall that it said came from the Iranian attack.

The little visible damage seen at the air base in the satellite image directly contradicts Iran’s efforts to portray the attack as a great victory to a public alienated by the Islamic Republic’s struggling economy and its heavy-handed crackdowns on dissent in recent years.

However, it does show Iran’s arsenal has the ability to reach Israel, as the 13 April attack marked the first direct military assault on the country by a foreign nation since Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein launched Scud missiles at Israel in the 1991 Gulf War.

This satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC shows a repaired taxiway after Iranian attack on Israel's Nevatim air base (AP)This satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC shows a repaired taxiway after Iranian attack on Israel's Nevatim air base (AP)

This satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC shows a repaired taxiway after Iranian attack on Israel’s Nevatim air base (AP)

Violence flares in West Bank as Gaza fighting continues

Saturday 20 April 2024 19:00 , Tara Cobham

A Palestinian ambulance driver was killed during the evacuation of the wounded during a raid by violent Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, Palestinian authorities said.

The incident came as violence flared across the area and fighting continued in Gaza.

The Palestinian health ministry said the 50-year-old driver was killed by Israeli gunfire near the village of Al-Sawiya, south of the city of Nablus, as he was making his way to transport people injured during the attack on the village.

It was not immediately clear whether he was shot by settlers. There was no immediate comment from the military.

Earlier, health authorities said at least two Palestinians, identified by Palestinian sources and officials as a gunman and a 16 year-old boy, had been killed during a raid by Israeli forces in the Nur Shams area, near the Palestinian city of Tulkarm.

A number of militants were killed and more arrested, the Israeli military said, and at least four soldiers were wounded in exchanges of fire.

Tulkarm Brigades group, which includes militants from numerous Palestinian factions, said its fighters exchanged fire with Israeli forces on Saturday.

At least three drones were seen hovering above Nur Shams, where Israeli military vehicles were massed and bursts of gunfire were heard.

Smoke rises as a result of an explosion during an Israeli army operation in the West Bank refugee camp of Nur Shams on Saturday (EPA)Smoke rises as a result of an explosion during an Israeli army operation in the West Bank refugee camp of Nur Shams on Saturday (EPA)

Smoke rises as a result of an explosion during an Israeli army operation in the West Bank refugee camp of Nur Shams on Saturday (EPA)

Erdogan meets Hamas leader in Turkey to discuss efforts for regional peace

Saturday 20 April 2024 17:48 , Tara Cobham

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan discussed efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza and reach a fair and lasting peace in the region during a meeting with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Istanbul on Saturday, his office said.

It was the first meeting between Erdogan and a Hamas delegation headed by Haniyeh since Israel began its military offensive in the Gaza Strip. Haniyeh’s visit to Turkey took place three days after he met Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Doha.

“Issues related to Israel’s attacks on lands of Palestine, particularly Gaza, efforts for adequate and uninterrupted delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, and a fair and lasting peace process in the region were discussed,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

The visit took place amid escalating regional tensions following Israel’s reported attack on Iran this week.

“Erdogan stressed that Israel should not benefit from the developments (between Iran and Israel) and that it is important to make efforts that will draw attention to Gaza again,” the statement added.

NATO member Turkey has denounced Israel’s offensive in Gaza following Hamas’ 7 October attack on Israel and called for an immediate ceasefire.

In Saturday’s meeting, Erdogan told Haniyeh Turkey continues its diplomatic efforts for a permanent ceasefire as well as the establishment of an independent state of Palestine, according to the statement.

Erdogan also told Haniyeh “it is vital for Palestinians to act in unity,” the statement said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh shaking hands during their meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, on Saturday (EPA)Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh shaking hands during their meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, on Saturday (EPA)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh shaking hands during their meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, on Saturday (EPA)

Six children killed in Israeli airstrike on southern Gaza city of Rafah

Saturday 20 April 2024 16:43 , Barney Davis

An Israeli airstrike on a house in Gaza’s southernmost city killed at least nine people, six of them children.

The strike late Friday hit a residential building in the western Tel Sultan neighbourhood of the city of Rafah, according to Gaza’s civil defence.

The casualties were initially transferred to the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah, and later the bodies of the six children, two women and a man were taken to Rafah’s Abu Yousef al-Najjar hospital, where the area’s main morgue is located, the hospital’s records showed.

The fatalities included Abdel-Fattah Sobhi Radwan, his wife Najlaa Ahmed Aweidah and their three children, his brother-in-law Ahmed Barhoum said. Barhoum also lost his wife, Rawan Radwan, and their 5-year-old daughter Alaa.

“This is a world devoid of all human values and morals,” Barhoum told The Associated Press Saturday morning, crying as he cradled and gently rocked the shroud-wrapped body of Alaa in his arms.

“They bombed a house full of displaced people, women and children. The only martyrs were women and children.”

 (AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

(AFP via Getty Images)

Turkey says ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories is ‘first priority’

Saturday 20 April 2024 14:40 , Barney Davis

Tension between Israel and Iran should not distract from the situation in Gaza and the first priority of the international community should be ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Fidan, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said there was concern in the region over the ongoing escalation.

“We’ve warned of the expansion of the conflict from the very beginning,” he said.

“We’ve called on both parties (Iran and Israel) to exercise restraint.”

Fidan said the main cause of instability in the Middle East was Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and Western backing for Israel.

“Any development that could distract us from this fact should be ignored,” he said. “Our first priority should be ending Israel’s occupation in Palestine and a two-state solution.”

Turkey Iraq (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)Turkey Iraq (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Turkey Iraq (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Iraq’s PMF force says base was attacked, army investigates

Saturday 20 April 2024 14:39 , Barney Davis

A huge blast at a military base in Iraq early on Saturday killed a member of an Iraqi security force that includes Iran-backed groups.

The force commander said it was an attack while the army said it was investigating and there were no warplanes in the sky at the time.

Two security sources had said earlier that an airstrike caused the blast, which killed a member of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and wounded eight others at Kalso military base about 50 km (30 miles) south of Baghdad.

In a statement, the PMF said its chief of staff Abdul Aziz al-Mohammedawi had visited the location and reviewed information from investigators.

“The air defence command report confirmed, through technical efforts and radar detection, that there was no drone or fighter jet in the air space of Babil before and during the explosion,” the military said in a statement.

A video broadcast by Al Ahad TV, which is owned by a PMF faction, showed debris and a crater left by the explosion.

 (UGC/AFP via Getty Images) (UGC/AFP via Getty Images)

(UGC/AFP via Getty Images)

Moment huge explosion hits base of Iranian-backed Iraqi army unit

Saturday 20 April 2024 14:21 , Barney Davis

Footage released on social media on Saturday 20 April appears to show huge explosions at a military base belonging to Iraq’s Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Babylon, south of Baghdad.

The cause of the blast hasn’t been confirmed.

Footage from a car shows huge explosions in the distance from an ammunition depot inside the military base, followed by what appears to launch bright fragments into the sky and with huge smoke and fire.

A statement from the Iran-backed PMF said “an explosion occurred at the headquarters of the Popular Mobilization Forces at the Kalsu military base”.

Moment huge explosion hits base of Iranian-backed Iraqi army unit

Hamas condemns explosion at Iraqi base

Saturday 20 April 2024 10:15 , Barney Davis

Hamas “strongly condemns” reported explosions on a base of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) in Iraq and “considers it a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty”, Al Jazeera reported.

“We hold the Biden administration responsible for the escalation in the region through its supply and support for the Nazi war of extermination against our Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip,” the group said in a statement.

‘Latest strike like a children’s toy rather than drone’ Iran brushes off Israel attack

Saturday 20 April 2024 09:15 , Barney Davis

Iran’s foreign minister played down Israel’s limited military attack on Friday, claiming it “was not a strike” and refusing to acknowledge Israeli involvement.

“It has not been proven to us that there is a connection between this and Israel,” Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in an NBC News interview about the operation.

“They were more like toys that our children play with — not drones,” he added.

An Israeli official, who confirmed the strike on the condition of anonymity to discuss the government’s thinking, said it was intended only to convey to Iran that Israel has the ability to hit targets inside the country.

The “attack” appeared to be calibrated as a message to Tehran that would not prompt an immediate retaliation.

‘Bombing’ hits Iraq military base housing pro-Iranian force, Iraqi officials say

Saturday 20 April 2024 08:12 , Barney Davis

An explosion rocked the Calso military base in Babylon province south of Baghdad, where Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, or Hashed al-Shaabi, is stationed, according to two officials.

A ministry of interior official said the “aerial bombing” had killed one person and wounded eight others, while the military source reported three Iraqi military personnel had been wounded in a strike.

In a statement, Hashed al-Shaabi said an “explosion” had inflicted “material losses” and casualties, without specifying the number of wounded.

The group confirmed that its premises on the military base had been hit and that investigators had been sent to the site.

Responding to questions from AFP, the security sources would not identify who was responsible, or say whether it had been a drone strike.

“The explosion hit equipment, weapons and vehicles,” said the ministry source.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Iran says it will respond at ‘maximum level’ if Israel acts against its interests

Saturday 20 April 2024 08:00 , Shweta Sharma

Iran has said it will respond at an immediate and “maximum level” if Israel acts against its interests.

“If Israel wants to do another adventurism and acts against the interests of Iran, our next response will be immediate and will be at the maximum level,” foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said, speaking through a translator, in an interview with NBC News.

“But if not, then we are done. We are concluded,” he said.

His comments follow reports of a strike in Iran on Friday.

Iran and Israel won’t stop fighting, but WW3 has been averted… for now

Saturday 20 April 2024 07:00 , Tara Cobham

From the early hours of this morning, a blizzard of reports spoke of an attack on an airbase near Isfahan, in central Iran. Such an attack was hardly unexpected. For all the appeals, from the US, the UK, and many others, Israel had left no doubt that it would mount a military response to Iran’s failed assault the week before.

What appeared to be a finely targeted raid on a complex believed to have been involved in Iran’s attack – a raid, what is more, carried out on the Iranian Supreme Leader’s birthday – could well have been it.

Except that, in the cold hard light of day, Iran denied there had been any attack at all.

Mary Dejevsky writes:

Iran and Israel won’t stop fighting, but World War Three has been averted – for now

Iran’s nuclear sites unharmed, says UN watchdog after explosions heard

Saturday 20 April 2024 06:00 , Tara Cobham

Nuclear facilities in Iran were left untouched, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed on Friday after explosions were heard near a major air base in Isfahan.

Iran fired its air defence batteries and shut down flight operations in several parts of the country as Israel allegedly launched retaliatory missiles in an overnight attack.

It was unclear if Iran came under attack, as no Iranian official directly acknowledged the possibility and Israel’s military has so far not responded to The Independent’s request for comment.

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar reports:

Iran’s nuclear sites unharmed, says UN watchdog after explosions heard near airbase

G7 foreign ministers’ communique warns of new sanctions on Iran and urges de-escalation

Saturday 20 April 2024 05:00 , Tara Cobham

Group of Seven foreign ministers warned of new sanctions against Iran on Friday for its drone and missile attack on Israel, and urged both sides to avoid an escalation of the conflict.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, who chaired the meeting of ministers of industrialized countries, said the agenda of the three-day meeting was changed on Friday to address the latest developments.

Early Friday, Iran fired air defenses at a major air base and a nuclear site near the central city of Isfahan after spotting drones. They were suspected to be part of an Israeli attack in retaliation for Tehran’s unprecedented drone-and-missile assault on the country last weekend.

Read more here:

G7 foreign ministers’ communique warns of new sanctions on Iran and urges de-escalation

White House says it has ‘no comment’ on overnight drone attack in Iran

Saturday 20 April 2024 04:49 , Shweta Sharma

The White House has no comment on reports of drone attacks in Iran overnight, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said on Friday.

The lack of comment is a departure for the White House which routinely weighs in on the latest developments in the conflict in the region.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken declined to say whether the US was warned about the strike. He, however, emphasised that “the United States has not been involved in any offensive operations”.

Biden administration has instructed US officials at multiple government agencies to not speak about Israel’s actions in Iran, according to the Washington Post.

One killed and six jured after explosion at Iranian-aligned Iraqi army unit in Baghdad

Saturday 20 April 2024 04:36 , Shweta Sharma

An explosion rocked an Iraqi military base that was housing pro-Iranian paramilitaries late on Friday, security sources said.

One Popular Mobilization Forces fighter was killed and six were wounded, two sources at a hospital in the nearby city of Hilla told Reuters.

The explosion hit the Kalso military base of Iraq’s PMF, 50km (30 miles) south of Baghdad. The base was used by the former pro-Iranian paramilitary group Hashed al-Shaabi which has been now integrated into the regular army. It is also referred to as the Popular Mobilization Forces.

“The blast has caused material damage and injuries,” PMF said in a statement, adding that a team was investigating.

The two security sources said it was not known who was responsible for the air strike. A US official said there had been no US military activity in Iraq.

The attack near the Iraqi capital of Baghdad came a day after strikes at an Iranian military base in Isfahan.

‘More like toys’: Iran downplays Isfahan drone strike

Saturday 20 April 2024 04:08 , Shweta Sharma

Iran has downplayed the overnight drone strike on Isfahan and dismissed its links to Israel while mocking the drones as “more like toys”.

Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told NBC News that the drones took off from inside Iran and flew for a few hundred metres before being downed.

He mocked the attack, saying: “They’re … more like toys that our children play with, not drones.”

“It has not been proved to us that there is a connection between these and Israel,” he said, adding that Iran was investigating the matter but that media reports were not accurate, according to Tehran’s information.

Israel has not officially claimed responsibility for the attack after reports of explosions in Isfahan province.

Iranian media and officials described a small number of explosions, which they said resulted from air defenses hitting three drones over Isfahan in central Iran in the early hours of Friday. They referred to the incident as an attack by “infiltrators”, rather than by Israel, obviating the need for retaliation.

Watch again as Antony Blinken speaks from G7 summit after strikes on Iran

Saturday 20 April 2024 04:00 , Tara Cobham

Watch: Antony Blinken speaks from G7 summit after Israel carries out strikes on Iran

Rishi Sunak calls for ‘calm heads’ as Israel suspected to have launched attack on Iran

Saturday 20 April 2024 03:00 , Tara Cobham

Rishi Sunak has called for “calm heads to prevail” as Britain has urged de-escalation following Israel’s suspected retaliatory attack on Iran – with explosions heard near a major military airbase.

While foreign secretary David Cameron met with his G7 counterparts in Italy to discuss easing tensions in the Middle East on Friday, Tehran was forced to activate its air defence system above the city of Isfahan, which is also home to sites associated with Iran’s nuclear programme.

Asked about the emerging reports on Sky News, a government minister said the UK accepts Israel’s “absolute right to defend itself” – but insisted Britain was “very firmly engaged in counselling de-escalation and moderation at this particular moment”.

Andy Gregory reports:

UK government urges de-escalation as Israel launches attack on Iran

White House says it has ‘no comment’ on reports of Israel’s attack in Iran overnight

Saturday 20 April 2024 02:00 , Tara Cobham

The White House has no comment on reports of Israeli attacks in Iran overnight, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said on Friday.

The lack of comment is departure for a White House that routinely weighs in on the latest developments in Israel conflict.

Recap: Watch as explosions heard and blast of light seen over Iranian city in suspected Israeli attack

Saturday 20 April 2024 01:00 , Tara Cobham

Editorial: Israel and Iran must not let these violent skirmishes turn into war

Saturday 20 April 2024 00:00 , Tara Cobham

Is this not how wars start? Conventionally, one sovereign state deliberately bombing the embassy of another sovereign state in a third country would be a reason to go to war, and a lawful one.

This is indeed what happened on 1 April, when Israel destroyed a building within the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus, Syria. Iran, however, did not declare war in true 19th-century style. It instead launched a huge one-night bombardment of assorted missiles at Israel, almost all of which were dealt with before they could land through intervention by Israel and other, friendly, air forces, with the fabled Iron Dome anti-missile defence system working impeccably.

Again, even though the Iranian assault turned out to be more a show of Israeli than Iranian strength, that attempted bombardment would at least notionally serve as a perfectly adequate casus belli for Israel. Yet it provoked Israel “only” to retaliate via a precisely targeted aerial assault on a Revolutionary Guard airbase and munitions store – more than likely from whence the Iranians had dispatched their own drones towards Israel days before.

Read more here:

Israel and Iran must not let these violent skirmishes turn into war

Watch: Sunak calls for ‘calm heads’ to prevail after reports of Israel attack on Iran

Friday 19 April 2024 23:00 , Tara Cobham

US defense secretary spoke with Israeli counterpart on Friday, Pentagon says

Friday 19 April 2024 22:14 , Tara Cobham

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant on Friday, the Pentagon said, adding that they discussed efforts to maintain regional stability, among other issues.

French and Lebanese leaders discuss effort to quell Hezbollah and Israel clashes

Friday 19 April 2024 22:00 , Tara Cobham

French President Emmanuel Macron met Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and the country’s army chief Joseph Aoun in Paris on Friday for talks on how to end cross-border fighting between Hezbollah and Israel and ease a political stalemate in Lebanon.

A statement from Mikati’s office said he discussed with Macron a French proposal to end cross-border fighting that envisions increased support for the Lebanese army and the withdrawal of Hezbollah fighters from within 10 km (six miles) of the border.

Mikati thanked Macron for his efforts “to stop the Israeli aggression against Lebanon and support the army with equipment and expertise to enable it to fully carry out its tasks,” the statement said.

Iran-backed Hezbollah and the Israeli army have engaged in clashes across the Lebanese border since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on Oct. 7, marking their most serious hostilities since a war between them in 2006.

The fighting has fuelled concern about the risk of further escalation.

Macron and Mikati also discussed the need to elect a new president more than 1-1/2 after former President Michel Aoun left office, deepening political paralysis as Lebanon continues to suffer from an acute financial crises, the statement from Mikati’s office said.

Israel ‘carries out strikes on Iran’ as Western allies urge restraint

Friday 19 April 2024 21:00 , Tara Cobham

The bitter confrontation between Israel and Iran has reached new, dangerous levels after Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is believed to have carried out strikes inside the Islamic Republic following the mass drone and missile assault six days ago.

The attacks in Isfahan are said to have targeted a military airbase next to one of Iran’s most important nuclear plants, adding to fears of a conflict spiralling out of control as Tehran threatened it will target Israeli nuclear facilities if any Iranian ones are hit.

The Iranian government, however, tried to play down the attack, saying no damage had been done and that it had no plans, for the time being, to retaliate.

Kim Sengupta and Alex Ross report:

Israel ‘carries out strikes on Iran’ as Western allies urge restraint

Isfahan drone attack ‘carried out by secret Israeli agents within Iran’, officials fear

Friday 19 April 2024 20:00 , Tara Cobham

The attack in Isfahan, taking the confrontation between Israel and Iran to a new level of danger, may well have been carried out by drones flown by secret agents inside the country, according to officials in Tehran.

Israel has not commented on the strike, nor have any details been given by the US administration of the weapons used. However, if the drones were, indeed, launched from inside Iran, it is an indication of the extensive scale and scope of Israel’s covert operations in the Islamic Republic using assassinations, sabotage and raids on secret treasure troves of documents.

The Biden administration has repeatedly asked Benjamin Netanyahu’s government not to carry out a major attack on Iran for fear of causing a full-blown conflict. A limited strike like the one on Isfahan, possibly triggered inside Iran, would have assuaged some of that concern.

World Affairs Editor Kim Sengupta reports:

Drone attack ‘carried out by secret Israeli agents within Iran,’ officials fear

Iraq expresses deep concern over attack targeting Iran’s Isfahan, state news agency says

Friday 19 April 2024 19:00 , Tara Cobham

Iraq expressed its deep concern over the attack targeting the city of Isfahan in central Iran, warning of the dangers of military escalation, the Iraqi state news agency said on Friday.

What Israel’s strike inside Iran tells us about Netanyahu

Friday 19 April 2024 18:07 , Tara Cobham

The conflict between Israel and Iran, fought out often in secret and through proxies, has now erupted with Israel carrying out strikes deep inside Iran six days after Tehran’s attack with more than 350 drones and missiles.

Explosions were heard near the central city of Isfahan, which has a large airbase, a major missile production complex and number of nuclear facilities.

Videos from the city showed orange flashes in the night sky, along with sounds of what appeared to be sustained bursts of anti-aircraft artillery.

World Affairs Editor Kim Sengupta reports:

What Israel’s strike inside Iran tells us about Netanyahu – Analysis

Mini drones did not cause any damage or casualties in Isfahan, says Iran’s foreign minister

Friday 19 April 2024 16:55 , Tara Cobham

The mini drones did not cause any damage or casualties in Isfahan, Iran’s foreign minister has said.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian claimed the lack of impact comes despite pro-Israeli media attempting to portray a defeat as a victory, according to state media.

In pictures: Alleged Israeli missile debris found in Iraq

Friday 19 April 2024 16:50 , Tara Cobham

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Ukraine and Israel aid packages head for House vote in defiance of GOP far right

Friday 19 April 2024 16:33 , Tara Cobham

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to advance the process of passing a large foreign aid package before a final debate and vote set to take place on Saturday.

A bipartisan majority voted for the debate rule on four bills on sending aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, as well as a fourth bill on fresh sanctions on Russia and the possible banning of TikTok in the US.

The foreign aid package passed the procedural hurdle by a margin of 316 to 94.

Gustaf Kilander reports:

Ukraine and Israel aid packages head for House vote in defiance of GOP far right

How many nuclear weapons do Israel and Iran have amid fears of wider conflict

Friday 19 April 2024 15:51 , Tara Cobham

On Friday morning, Iranians walked down the streets of Tehran next to posters adorning the country’s national flag with three depictions of missiles being fired from it.

“Israel is as weak as a spider web”, one poster read. Just hours before, explosions were heard over an airbase 200 miles south of the city in Isfahan.

Tehran’s defences had shot down three drones launched from over 1,200 miles away in Israel – said to be part of Netanyahu’s “response” for an earlier attack by Iran which saw over 300 missiles and drones fired at the Jewish state.

Alexander Butler reports:

How many nuclear weapons do Israel and Iran have?

Blinken says US not involved in Israeli strike on Iran, calls for calm

Friday 19 April 2024 15:28 , Tara Cobham

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US played no role in an Israeli drone strike on Iran that was retaliation for last week’s Iranian strike on Israel.

Speaking at a news conference in Capri during a Group of Seven ministerial meeting, Mr Blinken repeatedly declined to answer questions about the Israeli strike.

Instead, he repeated a statement indicating that the US was not involved.

Andrew Feinberg reports:

Blinken says US not involved in Israeli strike on Iran, calls for calm

Turkish and Iranian foreign ministers hold phone call, Turkish source says

Friday 19 April 2024 15:14 , Tara Cobham

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan on Friday spoke by phone to his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian at Iran’s request to discuss regional developments, a Turkish diplomatic source said.

The source did not provide further details.

Man arrested at Iranian consulate in Paris found not to be carrying explosives

Friday 19 April 2024 14:58 , Tara Cobham

French police on Friday arrested a man who had threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s consulate in Paris, but on being searched was found not to be carrying any explosives.

A police source told Reuters the man was seen at about 11am local time entering the consulate, carrying what appeared to be a grenade and explosive vest. Police cordoned off the area.

The man later left the consulate and was then arrested, a police source said. The TV channel BFM said he had been carrying replica grenades.

A police source said it was the same man who had been suspected of attempted arson near the Iranian consulate in an incident last September.

Le Parisien newspaper said on its website that, according to several witnesses, the man had dragged flags on the floor of the consulate and said he wanted to avenge the death of his brother.

It was unclear whether the incident had any link to current tensions between Iran and Israel.

The US embassy in Paris asked Americans to avoid the area, following similar recommendations by French police.

Police officers patrol near the Iranian consulate in Paris on Friday (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)Police officers patrol near the Iranian consulate in Paris on Friday (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Police officers patrol near the Iranian consulate in Paris on Friday (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Motives of man detained at Iranian consulate in Paris not immediately clear

Friday 19 April 2024 14:41 , Tara Cobham

The motives of the man detained at the Iranian consulate in Paris have not been immediately clear.

Officers are verifying the identity of the suspect, a Paris police official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to be publicly named under police policy, told The Associated Press.

The official said police launched a special operation as soon as they were alerted to a report of a suspicious man possibly carrying a grenade and explosives vest.

No explosions have been reported, they added.

Images on French television and social media showed police surrounding the building.

The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions in the Middle East.

Analysis: Netanyahu shows he is prepared to escalate conflict

Friday 19 April 2024 14:41 , Jane Dalton

A mis-step by either side may trigger the law of unintended consequences, writes Kim Sengupta:

By striking inside Iran, Irael has shown it’s prepared for escalation – Analysis

In pictures: Man who allegedly threatened to blow himself up at Iran‘s consulate in Paris arrested

Friday 19 April 2024 14:23 , Tara Cobham

French police secure the area near Iran consulate after a man had threatened to blow himself up in Paris on Friday (REUTERS)French police secure the area near Iran consulate after a man had threatened to blow himself up in Paris on Friday (REUTERS)

French police secure the area near Iran consulate after a man had threatened to blow himself up in Paris on Friday (REUTERS)

A man who had allegedly threatened to blow himself up at Iran‘s consulate in Paris has been arrested by police (REUTERS)A man who had allegedly threatened to blow himself up at Iran‘s consulate in Paris has been arrested by police (REUTERS)

A man who had allegedly threatened to blow himself up at Iran‘s consulate in Paris has been arrested by police (REUTERS)

French police and firefighters secure the area near Iran consulate where a man is threatening to blow himself up in Paris (REUTERS)French police and firefighters secure the area near Iran consulate where a man is threatening to blow himself up in Paris (REUTERS)

French police and firefighters secure the area near Iran consulate where a man is threatening to blow himself up in Paris (REUTERS)

Police arrest man in Paris Iran consulate incident

Friday 19 April 2024 14:16 , Tara Cobham

French police arrested a man who had threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s consulate in Paris, police said on Friday.

A police source had told Reuters the man was seen at about 11 am (0900 GMT) entering the consulate, carrying what appeared to be a grenade and explosive vest.

The man exited the consulate and was being searched by special police forces and was not actually carrying explosives, a police source said.

French police earlier cordoned off the Iranian consulate, Reuters reporters saw.

Blinken refuses to confirm Israeli attack

Friday 19 April 2024 14:10 , Jane Dalton

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has repeatedly declined to confirm the reported Israeli attack on Iran, saying Washington has not been involved in any offensive operations and it was committed to de-escalating tensions.

“I’m not going to speak to that except to say that the United States has not been involved in any offensive operations,” Blinken said following a gathering of G7 foreign ministers.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said the US was “informed at the last minute” but did not elaborate.

 (AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

(AFP via Getty Images)

Area cordoned off in Paris after arrest

Friday 19 April 2024 14:07 , Alex Ross

France’s elite BRI intervention brigade responded to the incident in the city’s 16th district.

Neighbouring streets have been cordoned off, and the Paris metro has been suspended in the nearby area.

Man threatens to blow himself up at French Iran consulate

Friday 19 April 2024 13:35 , Jane Dalton

A man threatened to blow himself up near the Iran consulate in Paris. French police and members of special police forces removed him.

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(Reuters)

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Watch: Hamas blocks ceasefire, Antony Blinken says

Friday 19 April 2024 13:10 , Jane Dalton

Israeli ‘aggression’ on Iran is an escalation against the region, Hamas says

Friday 19 April 2024 12:46 , Alexander Butler

Israel’s “aggression” on Iran is an escalation against the region, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said amid reports of an Israeli drone strike at an Iranian military site.

The Hamas terror group is part of the Iran-led “Axis of Resistance,” along with Lebanon’s Hezbollah and groups in Syria and Iraq.

The axis comprises a group of proxies across Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and Palestine, coordinated by Iran’s Quds Force, the foreign arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Quds Force’s aim is to export Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution abroad. The US assassinated the former head of the Quds Force, Qassem Solemaini, in January 2020.

Watch: Explosions seen over Iran as Israel launches missile attack

Friday 19 April 2024 12:19 , Alexander Butler

Watch: Explosions seen over Iran city as Israel launches missile attack

G7 foreign ministers’ communique warns of new sanctions on Iran and urges de-escalation

Friday 19 April 2024 11:51 , Alexander Butler

G7 foreign ministers’ communique warns of new sanctions on Iran and urges de-escalation

Western states sought to send de-escalation messages to Iran via Turkey, diplomat says

Friday 19 April 2024 11:25 , Alexander Butler

Western states have sought to send Iran messages via Turkey in recent days to reiterate appeals for de-escalation, a Western diplomat said on Friday.

The messages were conveyed before reported Israeli attacks on Iran early on Friday, after which Tehran indicated it had no plans for further retaliation.

After Iran’s retaliatory attack on Israel over the weekend, Turkey’s foreign ministry confirmed contacts with Iran and the United States in a statement, saying Ankara had called for restraint and warned of a regional war if tensions escalated further.

“In recent days we have sought to send Iran messages via Turkey – particularly reiterating the message of de-escalation,” said a Western diplomat, when asked about messages carried to Tehran by Ankara.

Watch: State TV presenter claims ‘everything is normal’ in Iran amid Israeli strikes

Friday 19 April 2024 11:15 , Alexander Butler

Conflict is a ‘complicated chess game’, former UK ambassador to Iran says

Friday 19 April 2024 11:10 , Alexander Butler

The conflict between Iran and Israel is a “complicated chess game” and it is difficult to predict how Iran will respond, the former UK ambassador to Iran said.

Rob Macaire, former UK ambassador to Iran, told Sky News: “Both countries are really good at using ambiguity, and it maybe that the Israelis will not want to make it clear whether this is the sum total of their response of if there is more to come.”

Asked if there was more to come, he said: “I don’t know. I think there are some really difficult calculations going on in both capitals.

“They are using force to send messages, and both looking at domestic audiences, and regional audiences….. it is a very complicated chess game going on between them with very high stakes.”