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Tehran plays down reported Israeli attacks, signals no retaliation

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Tehran plays down reported Israeli attacks, signals no retaliation

DUBAI/JERUSALEM
Explosions echoed over an Iranian city on Friday in what sources said was an Israeli attack, but Tehran played down the incident and indicated it had no plans for retaliation – a response that appeared gauged towards averting region-wide war.
Iran’s foreign minister said the drones, which the sources said Israel launched against the city of Isfahan, were “mini-drones” and that they had caused no damage or casualties.
The limited scale of the attack and Iran’s muted response appeared to signal a successful effort by diplomats who have been working to avert all-out war since an Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel on Saturday.
Iranian media and officials described a small number of explosions, which they said resulted from air defences hitting three drones over Isfahan in central Iran.
They referred to the incident as an attack by “infiltrators”, rather than by Israel, obviating the need for retaliation.
A senior Iranian official told Reuters there were no plans to respond against Israel for the incident.
“The foreign source of the incident has not been confirmed. We have not received any external attack, and the discussion leans more towards infiltration than attack,” the official said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was also cautious in comments to envoys of Muslim countries in New York.
“The Zionist regime’s (Israel’s) media supporters, in a desperate effort, tried to make victory out of their defeat, while the downed mini-drones have not caused any damage or casualties,” Amirabdollahian was quoted as saying by Iranian media.
Israel said nothing about the incident and its ally Washington refused to be drawn.
Asked about it repeatedly at a press conference in Italy, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he would not comment apart from saying that the United States was committed to Israel’s security but not involved in any offensive operations.
The White House also said it had no comment, in a departure for an administration that routinely weighs in on the latest developments in the Israeli conflict.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Israeli counterpart on Friday. A Pentagon readout made no specific mention of Iran, but said the two discussed issues including “efforts to maintain regional stability.”
Violence between Israel and Iranian proxies across the Middle East has intensified throughout six months of bloodshed in Gaza, raising fears the longstanding foes’ shadow war could spiral into a direct conflict.
Israel had said it would retaliate after Saturday’s strikes, the first ever direct attack on Israel by Iran, which caused no deaths after Israel and its allies shot down hundreds of missiles and drones.
Tehran launched those attacks in response to a presumed Israeli airstrike on April 1 that destroyed a building in Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus and killed several Iranian officers including a top general.
“Israel tried to calibrate between the need to respond and a desire not to enter into a cycle of action and counter reaction that would just escalate endlessly,” said Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington.