Israel launches airstrike; explosions heard in central Iran: Reports

Explosions were heard in Iran after Israel launched missile strikes in retaliation for a barrage of more than 300 drones and missiles fired by Tehran over the weekend, three U.S. news organizations reported.

Iran's semi-official Fars news agency said on Friday local time that explosions were heard near the airport at the central city of Isfahan. ABC, CBS, and NPR, each citing at least one unnamed American official, reported that Israel was responsible.

Citing three Iranian officials, the New York Times reported that a military airport near Isfahan had been targeted.

"The cause of these sounds is still unknown, and investigations continue until the exact details of the incident are determined," Fars reported. An unidentified Iranian official later told Reuters that the explosions came from local air defense systems, adding that no missile attack had been carried out. The brief report made no mention of Israeli drones.

Will it spark a wider war? Israel's long-simmering conflict with Iran moves out of the shadows.

Civilian airports were closed in Iran and flights from the Persian Gulf were diverted. There was no immediate comment from Israeli and U.S. officials.

Iran's weekend swarm of munitions and Israel's response marked the first direct exchanges of fire between the regional arch-enemies.

Warning sirens wailed inside communities near Israel's northern border in anticipation of rocket attacks from Hezbollah, the powerful Iranian proxy force that controls southern Lebanon − but officials later said it was a false alarm.

The U.S. on Thursday announced a fresh set of sanctions targeting Iran's production of unmanned aerial vehicles, while Tehran warned Israel it would review its official stance on nuclear weapons if its atomic facilities were attacked.

Iranian state TV said the country's nuclear facilities were intact.

Iran told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that Israel "must be compelled to stop any further military adventurism against our interests" as the U.N. secretary-general warned that the Middle East was in a "moment of maximum peril."

Israel, the U.S., and other regional and Western allies joined forces on Saturday to blast hundreds of Iranian drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles out of the sky after they were fired at Israel. That attack was itself an act of retaliation after Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khameni, blamed Israel for an airstrike on the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, that killed several people including a leading Revolutionary Guards commander.

Officials have been on edge about the possibility of a regional war since the Palestinian militant group Hamas rampaged across southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 and taking more than 200 people hostage. More than 30,000 Palestinians have died in the ensuing six months in Israeli airstrikes and ground fire, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

[10:33 PM] Borresen, JenniferHey Charles, I saw you were in the Iran story. I have a map if you want to embed it. TO VIEW TO EMBED

like 1Israel attack on Iran by USAT - Graphics - InfogramA post from USAT - Graphics on Infogram provided by:

Source of concern: Voters, fearful of World War III as Iran strikes Israel, will weigh foreign policy in 2024

"The regional states remain quite concerned that the longer the open-ended conflict in Gaza goes on, the greater the possibility – through a direct decision or miscalculation –  of a regional war," analyst Michael Wahid Hanna of the International Crisis Group told USA TODAY on Tuesday.

Following reports of the airstrikes, the U.S. Embassy in Israel issued a security alert saying that U.S. government employees and their family members are restricted from personal travel outside the greater Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Be’er Sheva areas until further notice.

"In response to security incidents and without advance notice, the U.S. Embassy may further restrict or prohibit U.S. government employees and their family members from traveling to certain areas of Israel (including the Old City of Jerusalem) and the West Bank," the alert added.

Contributing: Reuters

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israel launches missile airstrikes as explosions heard in central Iran