Iran downplays reported Israeli attack; US 'not involved,' Blinken says: Live updates

Iran downplayed a military offensive reportedly carried out by Israel on Friday indicating that the country may be seeking to prevent a broader conflict following a series of escalating exchanges between the two regional foes.

Iranian media and officials said Iranian air defenses hit three drones over the city of Isfahan, causing a small number of explosions in an area where a military base and nuclear facilities are located, according to Reuters. Iranian media did not blame Israel and instead said the attack was carried out by "infiltrators."

The extent of the damage was unclear. The U.N.'s top nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said none of Iran's nuclear sites were damaged.

Neither the Israeli military nor the country's officials or politicians have directly commented on the incident. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a press conference after a G7 meeting in Italy that the U.S. had no part in the attack. He declined to comment on Israel's reported involvement and said the U.S. and its allies are set on de-escalating tensions in the region.

For days, Israel has said it would retaliate against Iran following the weekend attack in which over 300 drones and missiles were fired at the country from Iran and were mostly intercepted by Israel, the U.S. and other regional and Western allies. Iran's attack was a response to a suspected Israeli airstrike on an Iranian embassy compound in Syria on April 1 that killed multiple Iranian officers, including a top commander.


◾ Iran has reopened airports and stretches of airspace that were quickly shut down following the heard explosions in Isfahan on Friday.

◾ The Israeli military on Friday attacked several Hezbollah military infrastructures in southern Lebanon, according to Haaretz, which cited the Israeli Defense Forces.

◾ While Israeli leaders have been quiet about the attack on Iran, two political leaders seemingly hinted at the incident in social media posts. National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, a hard-liner, published a one word post, "Feeble!" on the social media platform X. Tally Gotliv, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, wrote on X, "Good morning dear people of Israel, a morning in which the head is held high with pride. Israel is a strong and powerful country."

United Airlines suspends flights to Tel Aviv until May

United Airlines announced on Friday a suspension of all flights to Tel Aviv until May 2, citing “unrest” in the Middle East.

The announcement came after Israel reportedly launched a retaliatory attack on Iran that threatened to ratchet up their retaliatory assaults. Iran has downplayed the attack, while Israel has not acknowledged it and the U.S. has sought to distance itself from the incident.

On March 2, United Airlines resumed non-stop flights from New York to the most populated city in Israel, according to Reuters. Other airlines suspended flights on Friday, including Air Canada, Swiss Air and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

US House to vote on $26 billion Israel aid package Saturday

The U.S. House of Representatives is on track to pass a $95 billion foreign aid package for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan following a bipartisan procedural vote on Friday that advanced the bills despite objections from hardline Republicans.

If approved in a final vote on Saturday, the legislation will go to the Senate and eventually President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it into law.

The aid package earmarks about $17 billion for Israel to replenish its weapons stock, including its defenses and Iron Dome air system. There's about $9 billion set aside for humanitarian assistance for Gaza and other parts of the region.

In addition to the legislation being considered by Congress, the Biden administration is weighing more than $1 billion in new weapons for Israel, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

'Determinations' made on US funding for Israeli units accused of human rights abuses

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he's made "determinations" regarding U.S. funding to Israeli military and police units that a State Department panel found to be credibly accused of human rights violations, including allegations of killings and rapes.

Blinken's comments came during a press conference after the G7 meeting on the Italian island of Capri on Friday. They were in response to a report by ProPublica, which said Blinken for months has not taken action on staff-recommended sanctions against multiple Israeli authorities accused of heinous human rights violations against Palestinians mostly in the West Bank before Oct. 7.

The allegations, which led the state department panel to recommend the U.S. pull its funding, include extrajudicial killings, the gagging and desertion of an elderly Palestinian man, and an incident in which investigators tortured and raped a teenager being questioned for throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails, ProPublica reported.

"I think it's fair to say that you'll see results very soon," Blinken said. "I made determinations. You can expect to see them in the days ahead."

Man arrested after threatening Iranian consulate in Paris

A man was arrested Friday by French police after he threatened to blow himself up at the Iranian consulate in Paris, multiple outlets reported.

The man reportedly walked into the building wearing what appeared to be a grenade and explosive vest, though after being searched it was determined that the man was not carrying any explosive devices, according to Reuters.

The suspect's name has not been released and it's unclear if the incident is in connection with the situation in the Middle East, where tensions between Iran and Israel have surged in recent days causing the international community to urge restraint on both sides to avoid an all-out war.

US received 'last minute' notice about drones from Israel, Italian diplomat says

Antonio Tajani, Italy's foreign minister, said at a meeting on Friday that the United States had received "last minute" information about the drones from Israel, The Associated Press reported.

According to the outlet, Tajani said the United States told the G7 members that "there was no sharing of the attack by the U.S. It was a mere information." The G7 is a forum of advanced economies that includes the U.S., Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Italy.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a press conference after the G7 meeting did not say whether the U.S. was warned by Israel about the attack but said, "We were not involved in any offensive operations."

He added: "For our part, and for all the members of the G7, our focus is on de-escalation."

International community calls for restraint, some condemn Israel

Following the reported drone attack, global leaders urged restraint and called for continued efforts to prevent any more escalation.

"It is absolutely necessary that the region remains stable and that all sides restrain from further action," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would not speculate on the Friday incident but said "Significant escalation is not in anyone’s interest. What we want to see is calm heads prevail across the region," according to the Times of Israel.

"It is high time to stop the dangerous cycle of retaliation in the Middle East," said Secretary-General of the U.N. António Guterres in a post on X. "I condemn any act of retaliation & appeal to the international community to work together to prevent any further development that could lead to devastating consequences for the entire region & beyond."

Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Friday that the tensions between Israel and Iran following the apparent Israeli strike on the embassy compound in Damascus "risk turning into a permanent conflict," adding: "We call on all parties to refrain from steps that could lead to a wider conflict."

The Oman Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on X that it's "following the continuing tension in the region" and it "condemns the Israeli attack this morning on Isfahan in the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Contributing: Reuters

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israel war live updates: Iran downplays attack; Israel remains silent