Friday, 19 April 2024 04:39

Iran fires air defense batteries in provinces as explosions heard near Isfahan - Associated Press

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Iran fired air defense batteries early Friday morning as explosions could be heard near a major air base near Isfahan, raising fears of a possible Israeli strike following Tehran’s unprecedented drone-and-missile assault on the country.

It remained unclear if the country was 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 remained high in the days since the Saturday assault on Israel amid its war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip and its own strikes targeting Iran in Syria.

One Iranian government official and later Iran’s state-run television broadcaster suggested sites may have been targeted by drones.

IRNA said the defenses fired across several provinces. It did not elaborate on what caused the batteries to fire, though people across the area reported hearing the sounds.

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.

The semiofficial Fars and Tasnim news agencies also reported the sound of blasts, without giving a cause. State television acknowledged “loud noise” in the area.

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. However, state television described all sites in the area as “fully safe.”

Dubai-based carriers Emirates and FlyDubai began diverting around western Iran about 4:30 a.m. local time. They offered no explanation, though local warnings to aviators suggested the airspace may have been closed.

Iran later announced it grounded commercial flights in Tehran and across areas of its western and central regions. Loudspeakers informed customers of the incident at Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran, online videos purported to show.

Iranian state television began a scrolling, on-screen alert acknowledging a “loud noise” near Isfahan, without immediately elaborating.

Hossein Dalirian, a spokesman for Iran’s civilian space program, said on the X social media platform that several small “quadcopter” drones had been shot down. A state television reporter in Isfahan said the same in a live report, saying “several small drones were flying in the sky over Isfahan, which were fired at.”

Meanwhile in Iraq, where a number of Iranian-backed militias are based, residents of Baghdad reported hearing sounds of explosions, but the source of the noise was not immediately clear.

 

AP

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