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Israel, Iran likely to avoid more escalation after latest strikes: expert – National

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Israel and Iran are likely seeking to avoid further escalating their long-simmering feud into a regional war after an apparent Israeli strike last week, one Middle East expert says — but Iran may still be building a target list for the future.

Israel and the United States have not commented on who was responsible for a series of explosions over the Iranian city of Isfahan on Friday, which Iran said were air defences shooting down several attack drones launched from Israel. It came nearly a week after Iran launched hundreds of missiles and drones toward Israel — nearly all of which were repelled — in retaliation over an Israeli strike that killed two Iranian generals at an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria.

Iran has downplayed Friday’s incident and said it does not plan to retaliate — a response that Jonathan Panikoff, director of the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, says Israel likely planned for.

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“I think you’re really seeing Iran try to put this away and not have a big war over this,” he told Mercedes Stephenson in an interview that aired Sunday on The West Block.

“Iran probably is not ready for massive escalation in a war, and Israel certainly doesn’t want it at a time where they’re also struggling to finalize things in Gaza and figure out what to do about Rafah.”

Click to play video: 'Israel reportedly launches strikes into Iran, air defences destroy drones in Isfahan'

Israel reportedly launches strikes into Iran, air defences destroy drones in Isfahan

The fact the drones were apparently targeting Isfahan, which is home not just to a major air base but also sites associated with Iran’s nuclear program, further shows Israel’s response to Iran’s attack was “symmetric,” Panikoff added.

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“It’s really saying to the Iranians, look, we can hit you. You are not allowed to target us with impunity,” he said.

“(Israel is saying,) ‘We’re giving you an out here. We have no interest in escalating if you don’t want to escalate.’ And so it’s really now in the Iranians’ court to make a decision about whether or not they feel a need to strike Israel again or to let it go.”

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