Calls for calm after reported Israeli strike on Iran

Blinken says US ‘not involved in any offensive operation’

Tehran  -  World leaders appealed for calm Friday after reported Israeli retaliation against Iran added to months of tense spillover from the war in Gaza, with Iranian state media reporting explosions in a central province.

Israeli officials made no public comment on the reported attack and Iranian officials played down its significance.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said the Israeli micro-drones used in the operation had caused no deaths or damage, dismissing it as a “desperate attempt to make a victory out of their repeated defeats”.

Israel had warned it would hit back after Iran fired hundreds of missiles and drones at it almost a week ago, in retaliation for a deadly April 1 air strike -- widely blamed on Israel -- that levelled the Iranian consulate in Damascus and killed seven Revolutionary Guards.

Air defence systems over several cities were activated, official media reported, after state television said explosions were heard near Iran’s third city of Isfahan.

An unidentified Israeli official told The Washington Post the “strike” was retaliation for Iran’s drone and missile barrage and intended to signal Israel was able to hit inside Iran.

Iran’s Tasnim news agency, citing “informed sources”, denied that Iran had been attacked from outside.

“Contrary to the rumours and claims” made in foreign media, “there are no reports of an attack from abroad”, Tasnim said.

Three Iranian officials told The New York Times that small drones carried out the “attack”, possibly launched from inside Iran, and that its radar systems had not detected unidentified aircraft entering Iranian airspace.

Fars news agency reported “three explosions” close to Qahjavarestan, near Isfahan airport and the 8th Shekari army airbase.

Iran’s space agency spokesman Hossein Dalirian said there was “a failed and humiliating attempt to fly quadcopters, which were shot down”.

There were “no reports of a missile attack”, Dalirian said on social media platform X.

“Reports indicate there was no major damage or large explosions caused by the impact of any air threat,” the official IRNA news agency said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday refused to comment on reports of an attack by Israel on Iran, beyond saying Washington was “not involved in any offensive operation”.

Speaking to journalists after a meeting with G7 counterparts in Italy, he declined to answer repeated questions about explosions in Iran, and reports that Israel had carried out retaliatory strikes.

“I’m not going to speak to these reported events... All I can say is for our part and for all the members of the G7 our focus is on de-escalation”, Blinken told a press conference on the island of Capri.

“The US has not been involved in any offensive operation,” he said.

Speaking to reporters earlier, G7 host Antonio Tajani, the foreign minister of Italy, said Washington had been informed in advance of the strikes, without giving details.

“The United States were informed at the last moment,” he said, adding that “it was just information” passed on -- without saying who by.

The reports dominated the G7 Friday, with Tajani forced to change the agenda, but little public information emerged.

In its final statement, the Group of Seven ministers said: “In light of reports of strikes on April 19th, we urge all parties to work to prevent further escalation. The G7 will continue to work to this end.”

Israel had warned it would hit back after Iran fired hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel almost a week ago, in retaliation for a deadly strike -- which Tehran blamed on its foe -- that levelled Iran’s consular annex at its embassy in Syria.

French police surround Iran consulate in Paris

French police cordoned off the Iranian consulate in Paris Friday and were preparing to enter it at the mission’s request, after a report someone had come in with an explosive, a security source said.

“A witness saw a man enter carrying a grenade or an explosive belt,” the source said, adding that an elite police unit had been mobilised after the consulate requested an intervention.

An AFP journalist said the whole neighbourhood around the consulate in the capital’s 16th district had been closed off and a heavy police presence was in place.

Paris transport company RATP on X, formerly Twitter, said traffic had been suspended on two metro lines that transit through stops close to the consulate.

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