Satellite image appears to show damaged Iranian radar allegedly struck by Israel

Surrounding Russian-made S-300 air defense missile launchers largely unscathed in attack that reportedly targeted embattlements guarding secret Natanz nuclear site

An undated satellite image showing empty air defense embattlements at a site reportedly struck in an alleged Israeli attack on April 19, 2024, near Isfahan, Iran. (Screen capture: Google Maps)
An undated satellite image showing empty air defense embattlements at a site reportedly struck in an alleged Israeli attack on April 19, 2024, near Isfahan, Iran. (Screen capture: Google Maps)

An image aired by an Iranian opposition news outlet Sunday appeared to show significant damage to a radar system near a secretive Iranian nuclear site, after an alleged Israeli strike last week.

The destroyed remains of what was reported to be an anti-aircraft mobile radar station could be seen in the satellite image published by Iran International, with the ground around it charred black.

Satellite images of the site captured before the alleged attack early Friday showed the same “flap-lid” radar intact and surrounded by an array of four Russian-made S-300 mobile anti-aircraft missile launchers and other vehicles related to the air defense system.

Imagery taken Friday, hours after the attack, showed the missile launchers removed from the air defense system at the Eighth Shekari Air Base in Isfahan.

In the photo released Sunday, at least three of the missile launchers had apparently been returned.

Aside from the radar, all the other vehicles at the air defense site appeared to be largely unscathed, showing the pinpoint nature of the strike, which officials had indicated was intended as a limited retaliation to Iran’s barrage of missiles and drones on Israel days earlier.

The New York Times reported on Saturday that Israel used a high-tech missile that was able to evade Iran’s radar systems to attack the site, in a move meant to send a message of deterrence by displaying Israel’s offensive abilities.

It cited two Iranian officials as saying that the S-300 system was hit in the attack. The air defense post was reported to be part of an array defending the nearby top-secret Natanz nuclear site, some 100 kilometers away.

The Iranian officials told the newspaper that Iran had not detected intrusions into its airspace from drones, missiles or aircraft.

Two unnamed Western officials cited by the newspaper said the missile aimed to show Tehran that Israel is able to dodge and neutralize its defenses, in a move meant to force Iran to rethink launching another direct attack on Israel.

Despite the reports, Iran continued to insist that only several small drones were launched and that they had not caused any damage.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, in New York to attend a United Nations Security Council meeting on the Middle East, likened the strike on Friday to child’s play.

Speaking to NBC News through a translator, Amir-Abdollahian said the drones had taken off from inside Iran and flew for a few hundred meters before being downed.

A Russian-made S-300 air defense system is carried on a truck during Army Day parade at a military base in northern Tehran, Iran, April 17, 2024. (AP/Vahid Salemi)

“What happened last night was no attack,” said Amir-Abdollahian. “It was the flight of two or three quad-copters, which are at the level of toys that our children use in Iran.”

However, the reports that Israel had fired at least one missile appear to correlate with debris found in Iraq in the morning after residents of Baghdad reported hearing sounds of explosions.

Images showed what appeared to be parts of a two-stage standoff air-to-surface missile near Latifiya, southwest of Baghdad, which would have fallen away after the missile launch, although this remained unconfirmed.

Israel has several types of these munitions available for its air force, raising the possibility it was fired as part of the attack.

Also, around the time of the incident in Iran, Syria’s state-run SANA news agency quoted a military statement saying Israel carried out a missile strike targeting a southern air defense unit and causing damage. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor of unclear funding, said the strike hit a military radar for government forces.

That area of Syria is directly west of Isfahan, some 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away and east of Israel, and could provide an indication of the route taken by Israeli jets.

This photo released November 5, 2019, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran shows centrifuge machines in Natanz uranium enrichment facility near Natanz, Iran. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP, File)

The deeply fortified underground Natanz enrichment site has been repeatedly targeted by suspected Israeli sabotage attacks, but the reported strike on the S-300 radar would appear to be the first direct Israeli military attack in an area thought to contain much of Iran’s nuclear production capability.

The alleged Israeli strike came after Jerusalem indicated it would retaliate for Iran’s decision to launch over 300 missiles and armed drones at Israel overnight April 13-14, an unprecedented volley which itself came in reaction to an alleged Israeli strike on Iran’s consulate compound in Damascus on April 1 that killed several members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp, including a top officer.

Emergency personnel extinguish a fire at the site of strikes that hit a building next to the Iranian embassy in Syria’s capital Damascus, April 1, 2024. (Louai Beshara/AFP)

After an international coalition helped Israel down nearly all of the projectiles launched by Iran last week, Jerusalem was heavily pressured to show restraint and avoid retaliatory measures that could further escalate tensions and send the region hurtling toward all-out war.

Iran’s insistence that the strike was carried out by drones and caused no damage appeared to be part of an effort to play down its severity, with a senior Iranian official casting doubt on whether Israel had been behind the attack and saying there were no plans to hit the country back.

Israel has not officially commented on the strike, in line with its strategy of ambiguity regarding actions abroad, meant to give those it attacks maneuverability to avoid pressure to retaliate.

Agencies contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: