Calls for 'calm heads' in Middle East after 'Israeli strike inside Iran'

Israel's latest strike on Iran appears to have been limited, with Iran playing down the damage caused, but concerns still remain over further escalation. ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine reports

Calls have been made to "prevent further escalation" in the Middle East after US officials were told that Israel carried out a strike inside Iran.

Members of the G7 said any further spill over in fighting "must be avoided", while UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urged "calm heads" to prevail.

Israel's government has not issued an official comment, while the commander-in-chief of the Iranian army said reports of explosions above the city of Isfahan were related to anti-aircraft systems shooting at what he called a suspicious object that did not cause any damage.

Iran's air defence systems were activated in several locations, after three explosions were heard close to an airport and army base in Isfahan, state media reported on Friday morning.

After days of deliberation, Israel has hit back at Iran - leaving a sense of uncertainty over what happens next. ITV News Correspondent Lucy Watson explains what we know so far

Conflict 'must not' escalate in Middle East

In a joint communique, G7 members - including the United States, United Kingdom and France - said: "Israel and its people have our full solidarity and support and we reaffirm our commitment towards Israel's security."

Earlier in the day, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani confirmed that the United States was only made aware of Israel's planned attack at the "last minute" and "there was no involvement" from Washington.

He said the United States provided the information to other G7 nations at a meeting on Friday morning.

Mr Sunak, meanwhile, said it "wouldn't be right for me to speculate until the facts become clear", but reiterated calls for the situation not to spiral out of control.

'What we want to see is calm heads prevail across the region,' Rishi Sunak said in response to a question from ITV News

"We have condemned Iran's reckless and dangerous barrage of missiles against Israel on Saturday and Israel absolutely has the right to self defence," the prime minister added.

"But as I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu when I spoke to him last week, and more generally, significant escalation is not in anyone's interest. 

"What we want to see is calm heads prevail across the region."

Elsewhere, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called on Israel and Iran to refrain from further actions, while China said it opposes "any actions that lead to the escalation of tensions".

The airstrikes are reported to have hit the Iranian city of Isfahan. Credit: ITV News

Three blasts were heard near a military base where fighter jets are located in the northwest part of Isfahan on Friday, according to Iran's semi-official FARS news agency.

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

As well as a major airbase, air defences were activated over a nuclear site close to Isfahan, following reports of drones being spotted in the area, which Iran's National Cyberspace centre said had been intercepted.

It was not immediately clear which targets were hit and the full extent of the damage caused by the strike.

Residents appeared to be going about their day as normal in the city of Isfahan on Friday morning, despite the reported strikes there

Footage posted by the Iranian Students' News Agency showed life appearing to continue as normal in Ifsahan on Friday, despite the reported airstrikes.

Isfahan is home to sites associated with Iran's nuclear programme, including its underground Natanz enrichment site, which has been repeatedly targeted by suspected Israeli sabotage attacks. Iranian State television described all atomic sites in the area as "fully safe".

In a statement on Friday morning, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that it "can confirm that there is no damage to Iran's nuclear sites".

The agency added that it "continues to call for extreme restraint from everybody and reiterates that nuclear facilities should never be a target in military conflicts". 

Earlier this month Iran launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, which Tehran said was retaliation for a deadly suspected Israeli airstrike on Iran's consulate in Syria.

On Thursday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would make its "own decisions" when responding to Tehran's strikes, most of which were intercepted by air defences, amid pressure from international leaders not to escalate tensions further. 

Were Israel to take any further military action against Iran, the Islamic Republic's response would be "immediate and at a maximum level", Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told CNN on Thursday.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...