Iranian air defense on high alert amid explosions - report

In early 2020, Iran confirmed its air defense batteries mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian plane killing all 176 people on board.

A still image from video footage shows Bavar-373 mobile missile system in Iran (photo credit: REUTERS)
A still image from video footage shows Bavar-373 mobile missile system in Iran
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The US has several intelligence indications that Iran has put some of its air defense systems on high alert in recent days, CNN reported early Friday morning, citing a "US official closely tracking developments."

While the official refused to specify how the US got hold of the intelligence, he or she confirmed that the Islamic Republic has changed the alert status on its surface-to-air missile batteries, in a move indicating it would fire at airborne targets perceived as a potential threat.

In early 2020, Iran confirmed its air defense batteries mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian plane killing all 176 people on board, after it mistook the civilian aircraft for a US drone.

The plane, a Boeing 737-800 en route for Kiev, came down shortly after take-off from Tehran, when Iran was alert for US reprisals after launching rockets at US troops in Iraqi bases.

The skirmish erupted following the US assassination of former Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani and Kataib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades) commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (The Engineer) at the Baghdad International Airport five days before the downing of the Ukrainian plane.

According to the media outlet, US military officials refused to publicly comment on potential US intelligence related to Iran's latest change of alert status on the ground. The change, however, is reportedly not part of a training exercise, but a response to a series of unexplained blasts.

First reported in late June, a series of explosions on Iranian nuclear sites and strategic infrastructure have rocked the Islamic Republic. The mysterious explosions have been going on for three weeks, claiming 21 lives as of Tuesday, according to Al Jazeera. 

The explosions have been unofficially attributed to Israeli cyberattacks and covert strikes by US and Israeli forces. The Iranian regime has vowed to respond to the incidents, originally claiming they were related to accidents, system malfunctions and other non-hostile reasons.

Early July, Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel would take all steps necessary in order to prevent the Islamic Republic from being able to obtain a nuclear weapon, perceived by the state as a threat for both Israeli and regional security.

"Iran spreads terrorism and arms across the Middle East - to Syria, Lebanon, Gaza," Gantz told Army Radio. "A nuclear-capable Iran is something we cannot allow, and we will prevent that by all means necessary."

When asked whether Israel was involved in the explosions, the minister said he "cannot confirm or deny [Israeli involvement] in one incident or another."

The US has not commented on any potential Israeli connection to the series of explosions, with top US officials still looking into information on the explosions and their causes or perpetrators, the source cited by CNN told the media outlet.

"I'm going to leave that one alone. The Iranians – they're talking a lot about it," US Central Command Commander General Kenneth McKenzie told the agency. "I just listen to what the Iranians say on that."

US intelligence "have seen and observed those explosions in Iran," McKenzie continued. "I am not going to be able to speculate what that may or may not have done to the Iranian nuclear program."