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Israel carries out strike inside Iran, US official says

This is a locator map for Iran with its capital, Tehran. (AP Photo)

(CNN) — Israel has carried out a strike inside Iran, a US official told CNN Friday, a move that threatens to push the region deeper into conflict. The target is not nuclear, the official added.

Iran’s air defense systems were activated in several locations after three explosions were heard close to the airport and an army base in the Iranian city of Isfahan, state media reported early Friday morning.

Three explosions were heard near a military base where fighter jets are located in the northwest part of Isfahan, Iran’s semi-official FARS news agency reported.

“The defense is activated in response to an object that is likely to be a drone,” sources told FARS news.

The news agency reported that a possible target of the blast was a military radar, and that the explosion broke several windows of office buildings in the area.

Tensions remain acute across the Middle East after a decades-long shadow conflict between Israel and Iran erupted into the open this month raising the prospect of an all out war.

Reports of the explosion come hours after Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told CNN that if Israel takes any further military action against Iran, its response would be “immediate and at a maximum level.”

His remarks come in the wake of an unprecedented Iranian attack on Israel last week that Tehran said was retaliation for a deadly suspected Israeli airstrike on Iran’s consulate in Syria – placing the region on edge as Israel vowed to strike back in return.

Prior to Friday’s Israeli strike, the US expectation was that the country would not target civilian or nuclear facilities, another senior US official told CNN.

CNN has previously reported that Israel told the US its response would be limited in scope. US intelligence had suggested Israel was weighing a narrow and limited strike inside Iran because they feel like they have to respond with a kinetic action of some kind given the unprecedented scale of the Iranian attack

The range of targets was “never specified in precise terms but nuclear and civilian locations were clearly not in that category,” the second official added.

The US has been urging Israel not to respond to last weekend’s Iranian attack, which President Joe Biden on Thursday called “unprecedented.” The US “didn’t green light” an Israeli response, the second official said.

Outgoing flights from several Iranian airports have been cancelled, according to an Iranian official, Iranian state media Press TV reported.

Flights heading to “Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz, the airports of the West, North West and South West have been suspended” the director of public relations for an Iranian airport company told state-run Mehr TV.

Flight tracking website Flight Radar 24 showed that multiple flights were diverted over Iranian airspace early Friday. CNN counted at least eight flights.

FARS reported that the explosion was heard in the city of Ghahjaworstan, northwest of Isfahan, citing local sources.

Ghahjaworstan is located near Isfahan Airport and “the eighth hunting base of the Army Air Force,” according to FARS.