Iran Says Drone Strike Targets Isfahan Defense Site The.webp

Iran Says Drone Strike Targets Isfahan Defense Site

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Bomb-carrying drones targeted an Iranian arms factory in downtown Isfahan overnight, authorities said early Sunday, causing some damage at the factory amid heightened regional and international tensions in the Islamic Republic .

Iran’s Defense Ministry gave no information on who suspected the attack, which came as a fire broke out at a refinery in the north-west of the country and a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck nearby, killing two people.

Tehran, however, has been the target of suspected Israeli drone strikes amid a shadow war with its Middle Eastern rival when its nuclear deal with world powers collapsed. Meanwhile, tensions also remain high with neighboring Azerbaijan after a gunman attacked that country’s embassy in Tehran, killing its security chief and wounding two others.

Details of the Isfahan attack, which took place around 11:30 p.m. Saturday, remained scarce. A statement from the Department of Defense described that three drones were launched at the facility, two of which were successfully shot down. A third apparently managed to hit the building, causing “minor damage” to the roof and injuring no one, the ministry said.

The English-language arm of Iran’s state television, Press TV, aired a cellphone video that appeared to show the moment the drone swooped down the busy Imam Khomeini Expressway running northwest of Isfahan, one of several ways for drivers to enter the holy city of Qom and arrive at Tehran, the capital of Iran. A small crowd stood gathered, drawn by the flak fire, and watched as an explosion and sparks hit a dark building.

“Oh my goodness! That was a drone, wasn’t it?” the filming man yells. “Yes, it was a drone.”

Those there fled after the strike.

These footage of the strike, as well as footage of the aftermath analyzed by The Associated Press, corresponded to a location on Minoo Street in northwest Isfahan, which is near a shopping mall with a carpet store and an electronics store.

Iran’s defense and nuclear sites are increasingly surrounded by commercial real estate and residential areas, while the country’s cities continue to expand. Also, some locations remain incredibly opaque about what they produce, with just a sign bearing the logo of the Department of Defense or the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

The Department of Defense just called the site a “workshop,” without detailing what it was doing. Isfahan, about 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of Tehran, is home to both a large air force base built for its fleet of American F-14 fighter jets and its Nuclear Fuel Research and Production Center.

The attack comes after Iran’s intelligence ministry claimed in July it had dismantled a conspiracy to attack sensitive locations around Isfahan. A segment aired on Iranian state television in October contained alleged confessions by alleged members of Komala, a Kurdish opposition party banned from Iran and now based in Iraq, that they were planning to attack an aerospace military facility in Isfahan, after being trained by the Israeli Mossad intelligence service.

Activists say Iranian state television has broadcast hundreds of forced confessions over the past decade. Israeli officials declined to comment on the attack.

Separately, Iranian state television said a fire broke out at an oil refinery in an industrial area near the northwestern city of Tabriz. It said the cause was not yet known as it showed footage of firefighters trying to put out the blaze. Tabriz is approximately 520 kilometers (325 miles) northwest of Tehran.

State TV also said the 5.9-magnitude earthquake killed two people and injured about 664 others in rural areas of West Azerbaijan province and damaged buildings in many villages.

Iran’s theocratic government faces challenges both at home and abroad as its nuclear program rapidly enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels since the collapse of the nuclear deal with world powers. Nationwide protests have rocked the country since the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish-Iranian woman arrested by the country’s vice squad. Its rial currency has fallen to new lows against the US dollar.

Israel is suspected of launching a series of attacks on Iran, including an April 2021 attack on its underground nuclear facility at Natanz, which damaged its centrifuges. In 2020, Iran blamed Israel for a sophisticated attack that killed its top military nuclear scientist.

Israeli officials rarely acknowledge operations conducted by the country’s clandestine military units or its intelligence agency Mossad. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who recently returned to the post of prime minister, has long viewed Iran as the greatest threat facing his nation.

Meanwhile, tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran remain high as Azerbaijan and Armenia have been fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Iran also wants to maintain its 44-kilometer border with landlocked Armenia – something that could be threatened if Azerbaijan gains new territories through war.

Iran launched a military exercise near the border with Azerbaijan in October. Azerbaijan also has close ties with Israel, which has infuriated Iranian hardliners and bought Israeli-made drones for its military.


Associated Press writer Joseph Krauss contributed to this report.