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Iran鈥檚 supreme leader tacitly acknowledges that Tehran hit little in its attack on Israel

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JERUSALEM (AP) 鈥 Iran鈥檚 supreme leader on Sunday dismissed any discussion of whether Tehran鈥檚 unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel hit anything there, a tacit acknowledgment that despite launching a major assault, few projectiles actually made it through to their targets.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei鈥檚 comments before senior military leaders didn鈥檛 touch on the apparent Israeli retaliatory strike on 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 the Israel-Hamas war 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鈥檚 regular military, police and paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, a powerful force within its Shiite theocracy.

鈥淒ebates by the other party about how many missiles were fired, how many of them hit the target and how many didn鈥檛, these are of secondary importance,鈥 Khamenei said in remarks aired by state television.

鈥淭he main issue is the emergence of the Iranian nation and Iranian military鈥檚 will in an important international arena. This is what matters.鈥

Iran launched hundreds of drones, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles that sought to overwhelm Israel鈥檚 air defenses in the April 13 attack 鈥 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 老澳门六合彩 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鈥檚 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.

鈥淭oday, 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,鈥 added Khamenei, despite Iran facing public anger over its economy and crackdowns on dissent.

In other developments, Iraqi security forces in the western Nineveh province area were searching for 鈥渙utlaw elements鈥 who fired missiles across the border into Syria late Sunday, targeting a base for U.S.-led coalition forces, Iraq鈥檚 Security Media Cell said.

The searchers had found and destroyed a missile launcher, the statement added.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the reported attack.

Maj. Gen. Tahseen al-Khafaji, head of the Security Media Cell, said about five missiles were launched across the border but it was unclear if they had hit or caused any damage at the targeted base.

U.S. officials did not comment on whether any U.S. facility had been specifically targeted. One official said a coalition fighter destroyed a launcher in self-defense after reports of a failed rocket attack near a coalition base at Rumalyn, Syria. No U.S. personnel were injured, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details that were not yet public.

Two nights earlier, an explosion struck a base in Iraq belonging to the Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of Iran-allied militias, killing one person and injuring eight.

Militia officials initially described the explosion at the Kalsu military base north of Babylon as an airstrike that they blamed on U.S. forces. The U.S. Central Command denied it had carried out any airstrikes in Iraq, and Iraq鈥檚 Security Media Cell said the country鈥檚 air defense command had not detected any drones or war planes in near Babylon before or during the explosion.

The PMF is designated as an 鈥渋ndependent military formation鈥 within the Iraqi armed forces.

In recent months, some of the coalition鈥檚 member groups have staged attacks on U.S. forces based in the region, which they said was in retaliation for Washington鈥檚 support of Israel in its war with Hamas in Gaza. Those attacks halted after three U.S. soldiers were killed in a strike on a base in Jordan, near the Syrian border in late January, prompting U.S. retaliatory strikes in Iraq.

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Associated Press writer Tara Copp in Washington contributed to this report.

Gambrell is the news director for the Gulf and Iran for 老澳门六合彩. He has reported from each of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Iran and other locations across the world since joining the AP in 2006.