The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that Israel was behind an overnight drone inside Iran that targeted a military facility in the city of Isfahan.
Iranian authorities said three small quadcopter drones targeted a munitions factory in Isfahan and that its air defenses shot down one drone. The other two exploded above the building, causing minor damage but no casualties.
The Journal report cited unnamed US officials and people familiar with the operation, who said the attack came as the US and Israel “look for new ways to contain Tehran’s nuclear and military ambitions.”
The report said the attack took place next to a facility owned by the Iran Space Research Center, which has been sanctioned by the US for allegedly being involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program. Iran has yet to attribute blame for the incident, but Israel has a history of launching similar covert attacks using small quadcopter drones inside the Islamic Republic.
In May 2022, an Israeli drone attack targeted an Iranian military facility outside of Tehran, killing one engineer. About one year earlier, in June 2021, an Iranian nuclear facility was hit in an Israeli drone attack, resulting in damage to cameras belonging to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The report said the incident marks the first attack inside Iran under the new Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, although he has overseen plenty of covert operations inside Iran under previous governments he led. The attack came as the US and Israel are stepping up joint military coordination and just concluded their largest-ever joint exercise, which was seen as a major provocation toward Iran.
The US and Israel have been discussing ways to counter Iran’s growing military relationship with Russia. CIA Director William Burns made an unannounced visit to Israel last week to discuss Iran, among other issues. The US wants to disrupt Iranian military supplies to Russia, although Tehran insists it hasn’t provided drones to Moscow since the invasion of Ukraine.
At this point, it’s not clear if the drone attack was related to the war in Ukraine, but Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, made a point to comment on the incident. “Explosive night in Iran,” he wrote on Twitter. “[Ukraine] did try to warn you.” Podolyak previously called for the “liquidation” of Iranian facilities that produce weapons.
Israel has rebuffed requests to send weapons to Ukraine and wants to avoid raising tensions with Moscow. Israel frequently launches airstrikes in Syria and has an understanding with Russia over the operations, although Moscow occasionally calls for Israeli attacks on the country to end.