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The New Arab Staff

Israel behind blast at Iran nuclear site, official claims

Israel has been linked to previous attacks on Iran and Iran-linked forces in Syria [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 July, 2020

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Israel's defence minister has said the country is not 'necessarily behind every mysterious incident targeting nuclear and military sites in Iran.
Israel was the culprit behind a fire that caused significant damage to an Iranian uranium enrichment facility, a Middle Eastern intelligence official has claimed.

The unnamed source told The New York Times that a powerful bomb caused the explosion at the Natanz nuclear facility last week.

Declared an accident by Iranian officials, the blast led to significant damage to the facility and could slow the production of centrifuges used to enrich uranium, according to the country's atomic energy spokesperson.

Several mysterious fires and explosions have broken out at sites in Iran in recent weeks, including explosions at a weapons depot and medical facility, along with a fire at a power station.

The incidents have sparked speculation that Iran is under attack, with some pointing to arch-foe Israel as the culprit behind the supposed attacks.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the Middle Eastern intelligence official told The New York Times that Israel was behind the Natanz blast but not any of the other incidents.

Although authorities have offically referred to the incident as an accident, a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps told the newspaper Israel was behind the nuclear site explosion.

Iranian officials speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity also said they thought Israel was behind the blast, which they said was likely caused by a cyber attack.

When asked about the incident at a press conference late last week Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi responded: "We have a long-term policy... not to allow Iran to have nuclear abilities."
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"This regime with those abilities is an existential threat to Israel... we take actions that are better left unsaid," he said.

Israel is thought to be behind dozens of airstrikes targeting Iran-linked forces in Syria over the course of the nine-year conflict. It rarely confirms or denies the attacks.

On Sunday, Defence Minister Benny Gantz played down speculation Israel was behind the damage to the nuclear site.

"Not every incident that transpires in Iran necessarily has something to do with us," he told reporters.

Iran announced last year it would progressively suspend certain commitments made under a 2015 nuclear deal which the US unilaterally abandoned in 2018.

Tehran restarted enriching uranium at Natanz in September despite having agreed to put such activites on hold.

The purported attack on the Natanz site comes just a few months ahead of the expiry date on a United Nations arms embargo on Iran.

Both Israel and the US are currently lobbying the UN Security Council to see the embargo extended past October.


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