26 May 2024
0 7 mins 1 mth

Iran’s foreign minister brushed off Israel’s limited attack Friday, as a muted response from the two foes signaled that the threat of full-blown war could recede after weeks of escalation.

The Israeli military’s operation in Isfahan in central Iran appeared intended to send a message without drawing immediate backlash, raising hopes that the two may heed global calls for restraint after a spate of attacks.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian downplayed the incident in an NBC News interview, saying it “was not a strike” and “they were more like toys that our children play with — not drones.”

He also did not acknowledge Israeli involvement in the operation, saying, “It has not been proven to us that there is a connection between this and Israel.”

Israeli officials have mostly kept silent after the attack. An Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the government’s thinking, said the military’s strike was meant to convey to Tehran that Israel has the ability to hit inside the country.

The impact of the strike was not immediately clear, although Iranian authorities said soon after that no damage was caused.

Iran’s response seemed to add weight to the prospect of easing an increasingly volatile tit for tat, although it was too early to declare that a broader regional war has been averted, analysts say.

“As long as there is no new adventurism by Israel against our interests, then we are not going to have any new reactions,” Amir-Abdollahian said Friday, but still vowed a “maximum” and swift response “if Israel takes a decisive action against” Iran.

U.S. officials at multiple government agencies said the Biden administration had instructed them not to speak publicly about the Israeli strike Friday.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken declined to comment on whether Washington was briefed ahead of time, but he emphasized that “the United States has not been involved in any offensive operations.”

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told reporters as he hosted a Group of Seven meeting that the United States was given advance notice of the Israeli operation at the “last minute” but did not participate in it.

In Isfahan, which is home to sensitive military and nuclear facilities, Iranians said the strike was a reminder of how close the country has come to an all-out war, after years when Israel and Iran fought mainly in the shadows, The Washington Post reports.

Here’s what else to know

The United States will partner with the World Food Program to distribute aid in Gaza after it is delivered via a temporary pier to be set up by the U.S. military, USAID said in an emailed statement. USAID said discussions were underway with WFP and other partners about how to deliver aid while ensuring the safety of humanitarian workers.

An Israeli raid at the Nur Shams camp in the occupied West Bank continued Saturday. The Palestinian health ministry based in Ramallah said a teenage boy was killed and at least 11 people injured in the refugee camp and Tulkarm. Charity group Medical Aid for Palestinians said the raid caused “extensive destruction to civilian infrastructure,” after the Palestine Red Crescent Society said Friday that Israeli forces prevented its ambulances from entering the camp to transfer injured Palestinians. The Israeli military said in a statement Saturday that its forces killed 10 militants, detained eight people, and found explosives, and that eight soldiers were injured. It did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the teenager, or the reports it had blocked ambulances.

Blinken said he has made a decision on accusations that Israel violated U.S. laws prohibiting the provision of military assistance where there are gross violations of human rights. “You can expect to see them in the days ahead,” he said.

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, said Palestinian leadership would reconsider bilateral relations with the United States after a U.S. veto at the United Nations Security Council on a resolution to admit the Palestinian territories as a full U.N. member state. Abbas said in an interview with WAFA, the state news agency, that the United States has “broken all the promises” of a two-state solution and achieving peace in the region.

The European Union imposed sanctions on two leading members of Hilltop Youth, a radical Israeli group involved in deadly attacks against Palestinians in 2015 and 2023, as well as Ben-Zion Gopstein, the founder of Lehava, a radical right-wing Jewish supremacist group closely associated with Israel’s national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir.

A member of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces was killed and eight others injured in an explosion at a militia base in Iraq, the country’s military said. Authorities said no drone or plane breached Iraqi airspace and that an investigation would take place. The PMF, an array of factions including some linked to Iran, said early Saturday that the base “was attacked” without elaborating. Video showed what appeared to be the aftermath of an explosion at the site, where the 7th Brigade of the PMF is based, according to PMF media. U.S. Central Command said in statement after the blasts that it had not conducted any airstrikes in Iraq. The Israeli military declined to comment.

At least 34,049 people have been killed and 76,901 injured in Gaza since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and says that 260 soldiers have been killed since its military operation in Gaza began.

Mustafa Salim, Mohamad El Chamaa, Cate Brown, Steve Hendrix and Alon Rom contributed to this report.

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