Israel on Saturday launched three bomb-carrying drones at a warehouse in the Iranian city of Isfahan, targeting some sort of military-linked facility, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported Sunday, citing U.S. officials and others familiar with the attack. It isn't clear how much damage the drones inflicted on the site, or what was in the warehouse Israel reportedly targeted.
The U.S. said publicly that it was not involved in Saturday night's drone attack and privately suggested it was not given advance warning by Israel. Israel's military has not commented on the attack. Israel has hit Iranian defense sites with quadcopter drones several times over the past few years.
Tehran said the raid on "an ammunition manufacturing plant" was foiled by surface-to-air defense systems that shot down the small quadcopter drones, causing minor damage to the roof. "It is not clear why Iran would build an ammunition production plant in the middle of a city of roughly two million people," the Times reports. Independent intelligence analyst Ronen Solomon told the Journal that given the small modest of the blast, the target wasn't an ammunition storehouse but instead probably a lab or military logistics site.
Isfahan is a major center of missile research, development, and production, and the warehouse is located across the street from a facility belonging to a unit of the Iran Space Research Center, Solomon told the Journal. The U.S.-sanctioned organization has worked with Iran's Ministry of Defense and the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, which oversees Iran's ballistic missile program and developed the Shahab medium-range missiles.
Such missiles could reach Israel, but the are also reportedly sought by Russia to restock its depleted missile arsenal for use against Ukraine. Iran is the primary provider of attack drones to Russia. The U.S. has been pressing Israel to do more to militarily support Ukraine in its war against Russian invaders, but Israel has balked, the Journal reports. Russia's military, which provides air defense for Syria, allows Israel fighter jets to hit Iranian targets in Syria under a yearlong understanding.
"This is a smart trifecta where Israel can hurt Iran, help Ukraine, and not risk its strategic interests in Syria or run the risk of the diversion of its sensitive military technology to Russia and into Iran," Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of Washington's Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, tells the Journal.