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Iran’s supreme leader tacitly acknowledges Tehran hit little in its massive attack on Israel

JERUSALEM — Iran’s supreme leader on Sunday dismissed any discussion of whether Tehran’s unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel hit anything there, a tacit acknowledgment that despite launching a massive assault, few projectiles actually made through to their targets.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comments before senior military leaders didn’t not touch on the apparent Israeli retaliatory strike Friday on the central city of Isfahan, even though air defenses opened fire and Iran grounded commercial flights across much of the country.

Analysts believe both Iran and Israel, regional archrivals locked in a shadow war for years, are trying to dial back tensions following a series of escalatory attacks between them as Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip rages on and inflames the wider region.

Khamenei, 85, made the comments in a meeting attended by the top ranks of Iran’s regular military, police and paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, a powerful force within its Shiite theocracy.

“Debates by the other party about how many missiles were fired, how many of them hit the target and how many didn’t, these are of secondary importance,” Khamenei said in remarks aired by state television.

“The main issue is the emergence of the Iranian nation and Iranian military’s will in an important international arena. This is what matters.”

Iran launched hundreds of drones, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles that sought to overwhelm Israel’s air defenses in the April 13 attack — the first on Israel by a foreign power since Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein launched Scud missiles at Israel in the 1991 Gulf War.

However, Israeli air defenses and fighter jets, backed by the U.S., the United Kingdom and neighboring Jordan, shot down the vast majority of the incoming fire.

Satellite images analyzed Saturday by The Associated Press showed the Iranian attack caused only minor damage at the Nevatim air base in southern Israel, including taking a chunk out of a taxiway that Israel quickly repaired.

Iran’s attack came in response to a suspected Israeli strike on April 1 targeting a consular building next to the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria, which killed two Guard generals and others.

“Today, thanks to the work done by our armed forces, the Revolutionary Guard, the army, the police, each in its own way, praise be to Allah the image of the country around the world has become commendable,” added Khamenei, despite Iran facing public anger over its economy and crackdowns on dissent.

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