Iran blamed Israel on Monday for an attack on its underground Natanz uranium enrichment plant, warning that it would seek revenge for the assault.
“Of course the Zionist regime, with this action, tried to take revenge on the people of Iran for their patience and wise attitude regarding the lifting of (US) sanctions,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said at a press conference
It was the first official accusation levelled against Israel for the incident Sunday that cut power across the facility. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, called the attack an act of “nuclear terrorism” on Sunday, but he stopped short of directly blaming anyone for the incident.
The person responsible for “disrupting the electrical system” at Natanz has been identified, Iranian Nournews website quoted an intelligence source as saying on Monday.
Measures are being taken to arrest the person, the website reported. It gave no details about the individual.
Israel has not directly claimed responsibility for the attack. However, suspicion fell immediately on Israel as media there nearly uniformly reported that a devastating cyberattack orchestrated by the country caused the blackout.
If Israel was responsible, it would further heighten tensions between the two nations, already engaged in a shadow conflict across the wider Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met Sunday with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, has vowed to do everything in his power to stop the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal.
IR-1 centrifuges damaged in attack
Details about what happened early Sunday morning at the enrichment facility remained sketchy. The event was initially described as a blackout caused by the electrical grid feeding its above-ground workshops and underground enrichment halls.
Khatibzadeh acknowledged that IR-1 centrifuges, the first-generation workhorse of Iran’s uranium enrichment, had been damaged in the attack. However, he did not elaborate. State television has yet to show any images from the facility.
“The answer for Natanz is avenging Israel,” Khatibzadeh said. “Israel will receive its answer through its own path.” He did not elaborate.
Natanz suffered a mysterious explosion in July that authorities later described as sabotage. Israel was suspected of being behind the attack.
Iran also blamed Israel for the killing of a scientist who began the country’s military nuclear programme decades earlier.
‘We have red lines’
Multiple Israeli media outlets reported Sunday that an Israeli cyberattack caused the incident at the Natanz site. Public broadcaster Kan said the Mossad intelligence agency was behind the attack. Channel 12 TV cited “experts” as estimating the attack shut down entire sections of the facility.
While the reports offered no sourcing for their information, Israeli media maintains a close relationship with the country’s military and intelligence agencies.
“It’s hard for me to believe it’s a coincidence,” Yoel Guzansky, a senior fellow at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies, said of the power cut. “If it’s not a coincidence, and that’s a big if, someone is trying to send a message that ‘we can limit Iran’s advance and we have red lines.’”
It also sends a message that Iran’s most sensitive nuclear site is penetrable, Guzansky added.
Netanyahu late Sunday toasted his security chiefs, with the head of Mossad, Yossi Cohen, at his side on the eve of Israel’s Independence Day.
“It is very difficult to explain what we have accomplished,” Netanyahu said of the country’s history, saying Israel had been transformed from a position of weakness into a “world power”.
Israel typically doesn’t discuss operations carried out by Mossad or specialised military units. In recent weeks, Netanyahu has repeatedly described Iran as the major threat to Israel as he struggles to hold onto power after multiple elections and while facing corruption charges.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)
Sources from: France 24
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