Iranian officials said the country’s air defense repelled an attempted attack by three small quadcopters on a munitions factory in the city of Isfahan. It is located next to a facility owned by Iran’s Space Research Center, which has been sanctioned by the United States for its work on Iran’s ballistic missile program.

Iran said its air defense systems shot down one of the drones and two others exploded over the warehouse, causing minor damage to the roof.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian called the blast a “cowardly strike”:

“Such actions cannot impact the determination and intent of our experts for peaceful nuclear progress,” he said, according to the government news service PadDolat.

The strike was the first known attack by Israel under the new far-right coalition government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who sanctioned a series of bold operations inside Iran when he last served in that role from 2009 to 2021, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Israel’s latest strike comes as Israeli and US officials discuss new ways to deal with Iran’s deepening military cooperation with Russia.

CIA Director William Burns made an unannounced visit to Israel last week to discuss Iran and other regional issues. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will arrive in Israel on Monday to continue US-Israel talks on Iran and other regional issues.

Last week, the US and Israel conducted the largest joint military exercise in history, involving more than 7,500 military personnel from both countries, and worked out a series of scenarios to test their ability to disable air defense systems and refuel jet planes — both of these elements could be key to the task of a powerful military strike against Iran.

Last week, a top Israeli general said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that Israel and the US are preparing for the worst.

Gen. Herzi Halevi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, said the military exercises sent “a very clear message to Iran: If Iran makes mistakes, offense capabilities are getting ready.”

Efforts by President Biden to resurrect a nuclear containment deal with Iran have come to a standstill, but the U.S. has yet to develop an alternative. Benjamin Netanyahu has been pushing the U.S. to take a tougher stance against Iran. 

At the same time, the US has been pressuring Israel to do more to help Ukraine in its war with Russia, especially now that Tehran is providing Moscow with hundreds of drones that are used to attack Ukraine.

Israel rejected the provision of direct military aid to Ukraine, which, according to the warning of Russian politicians, would endanger relations between Israel and Moscow.

Russia and Israel have for years maintained a relationship that has allowed Israeli warplanes to repeatedly strike Iranian targets in Syria, where Moscow provides air defense for President Bashar al-Assad. Israel is concerned that open support for Ukraine could jeopardize its ability to strike Iranian targets in Syria.

The new Netanyahu government is not expected to offer direct military support to Ukraine, but will continue to carry out covert strikes on Iran’s nuclear and military programs.

Strikes like the one over the weekend help undermine Iran’s ability to help Russia in its war with Ukraine.

“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,” said Mark Dubowitz, chief executive officer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank critical of Iran.

“Explosive night in Iran,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine’s president, wrote on Twitter in response to the blast in Iran. “[Ukraine] did warn you.”

When Benjamin Netanyahu was last in office, he led a series of Israeli strikes on Iran using small drones like the one used this weekend. His successor, Naftali Bennett, embraced a strategy he called the “Octopus Doctrine,” under which Israel carried out strikes not just against Tehran’s proxies in the Middle East, like Hezbollah, but also against Iran itself as the head of the so-called octopus.

In 2021, the Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said it prevented an attack by two quadcopters on one of its facilities. Last May, quadcopters were used to attack a military facility used to develop unmanned, missile and nuclear technology outside Tehran.

The main target of Saturday’s strike was a warehouse located behind a shopping center in Isfaghan, which Iran said was an ammunition warehouse. A video of the explosion posted on social media by witnesses showed a small explosion above the building that appeared to cause minimal damage.

Satellite images released on Sunday showed minor damage to the building.

Ronen Solomon, an independent intelligence analyst and author of the Intelli Times blog, said that the small size of the blast indicated that the target wasn’t an ammunition storehouse. Instead, he said, it could have been a lab or military-logistics site.

Public figures in Iran suggested that Israel and its Western allies were behind the attack.

According to Solomon, satellite images showed the warehouse was located across the street from a facility owned by a division of the Iran Space Research Center, a US-sanctioned organization that works with the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, which is responsible for Iran’s ballistic missile programs. and the Ministry of Defense of Iran.

A missile plant owned by Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, located west of Tehran, was reportedly targeted by an Israeli strike in September 2021.