© Mohammad Reza Sharif/Courtesy Images/APThe Iranian Army's tactical air base in Isfahan
Israel had vowed to make Iran pay for Tehran's unprecedented drone and missile attack on April 13.

But Israel's suspected military response early on April 19 appeared to be limited in scale and scope and aimed at de-escalating tensions with Iran.

Tehran said it shot down three quadcopter drones outside the central city of Isfahan, which is home to key military and nuclear facilities. Unnamed U.S. officials said Israel used missiles in the attack.

Experts said the use of small quadcopter drones, which are unable to travel long distances, suggests the attack was carried out from inside Iranian territory.

Israel has not claimed the attack in Isfahan. But experts said the suspected Israeli response sent a clear message to Tehran.

Raz Zimmt, a senior researcher at the Israeli-based Institute for National Security Studies, said Israel's use of quadcopter drones, if confirmed, suggests its aim was to "expose the vulnerability of the Iranian security forces" on their own turf.

Zimmt said the attack was not without its risks, but out of all the options available to Israel, it was possibly the least risky.
MAP IranIsrael
© OpenStreetMap
"At this stage, deniability is vital to lower the risk. I think that if Israel takes responsibility for what happened -- and there is sometimes this tendency among Israeli politicians - this would make it more difficult, not impossible but more difficult, for Iran not to retaliate."
Reuters quoted an unnamed Iranian official as saying that Tehran "has no plan to strike back immediately."

Israel has been accused of previously attacking military sites in Isfahan with small drones. In January 2023, a military factory was hit. Three months later, Iran said it had foiled a drone attack on a Defense Ministry complex in the city.

© unknown/KJNMilitaries By The Numbers: Iran and Israel
Farzin Nadimi, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that if Israel was behind the Isfahan attack, it was carried out in a manner "that carried the least risk of an Iranian retaliation."

Iran's April 13 attack was a response to the suspected Israeli air strike on the Iranian Embassy compound in Damascus on April 1 that killed seven Iranian commanders, including two generals.

Tehran said its attack showed that a "new equation" had been established and that Iran would not let Israeli strikes on Iranian interests abroad go unanswered.

But on the same day as the Isfahan attack, Israel was accused of targeting air defense systems in Syria, a key ally of Tehran where Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has a presence.

Zimmt said Israel wanted to send the message that
"first, we retaliated, and second, we attacked in Syria and not just in Iran, meaning we are not ready to accept this so-called 'new equation' that the Iranians are trying to force on us."