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The tit-for-tat strikes between Iran and Israel, the latest of which occurred early Friday targeting the city of Isfahan in central Iran, are not expected to go on, as both sides are covertly seeking to de-escalate the unprecedented tensions.

Overnight explosions echoed across Isfahan in what was described as an Israeli attack by US and Israeli media. The Iranians, however, reported a different version of what happened.

According to Iranian media and officials, a small number of explosions resulted from Iran’s air defenses hitting three drones over Isfahan, alleging that the attack was carried out by “infiltrators” rather than by Israel.

The conflicting versions of the incident, whose significance is obviously being downplayed by Iran while Israel has refrained from any official claim or comment, indicate a will on both sides to avert an all-out escalation since an Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel last Saturday, according to Dubai-based Middle East security and defense analyst Riyad Kahwaji.

“It is an Israeli air raid carried out with long-range precision weapons, apparently fired from above Iraqi airspace. It hit an airbase near Asfahan, which was used to launch drones against Israel in the last attack,” Kahwaji told This is Beirut.

He explained that the Iranian narrative of the incident, denying any breach of Iran’s sovereignty from outside, “will relieve the Iranian officials of their earlier threats to retaliate if attacked by Israel,” and that Israel, under US pressure, is helping Tehran sell its version by keeping silent.

Friday’s attack demonstrated to the Iranians that Israel can, on its own, hit them and even target their nuclear sites if it is attacked again, Kahwaji contended.

“Iran is like someone who has climbed a high tree and needs to climb down that tree after the attack confirmed Israel’s big qualitative edge over Iran’s quantitative superiority,” said Kahwaji, who is also the director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.

During its attack on April 13, Iran fired some 310 missiles and drones against Israel, of which only 7 penetrated Israeli air defenses, while Israel fired a small number of missiles, 3 or 4, and almost all got through Iranian defenses.

The unprecedented direct confrontation between Israel and Iran, since an Israeli airstrike on April 1 destroyed a building in Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus and killed several Iranian officers, including top generals, is expected to die down.

“With the Iranian narrative, there is no need for Tehran to retaliate, and since there would be no retaliation from Iran, Israel does not have to hit back,” Kahwaji said, adding, “the open direct exchanges are over and the shadow warfare by proxy, under the old rules of the game, is back.”

For his part, retired Lebanese Army General Khaled Hamadeh noted that today’s Israeli attack on Isfahan “did not come as a surprise.”

According to him, the Israeli attack on the Iranian diplomatic mission in Damascus, which opened the door for the tit-for-tat strikes, has ushered in a new phase of regional confrontations under US patronage.

“The large scope of last week’s Iranian drone and missile attack against Israel, its weak impact, and the way it was conducted proved that the US is the one that holds the reins of the restrained exchanges,” Hamadeh said in comments to This is Beirut.

“The limited scale of today’s attack also falls within that same framework, a phase that would last until after the US presidential election in November, to the least,” he added.

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