US reinforces 'ironclad' Israel relationship as Iran tension rises
US reinforces 'ironclad' Israel relationship as Iran accuses country of 'nuclear terrorism'
During a two-day visit to Israel, the US defence secretary was quick to reinforce Washington's close relationship with Israel amid tensions with Iran.
The US defence secretary has reiterated the "ironclad" relationship between Israel and Washington, amid accusations that Israeli agents struck an Iranian nuclear site in what Tehran has called an act of "terrorism".
Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin began a two-day visit to Israel over the weekend - the first of its kind since he took his position in US President Joe Biden's administration.
Austin began his visit meeting with religious leaders in Jerusalem and is later set to convene meetings with several Israeli military leaders to discuss US arms sales.
"This is a relationship that is built on trust, which has developed over decades of cooperation," Austin said in a joint statement with Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz at a military base in Tel Aviv.
Gantz said Israel "will work closely with our American allies, to ensure that any new agreement with Iran will secure the vital interests of the world and the United States, prevent a dangerous arms race in our region and protect the State of Israel".
Attack on Iran nuclear facility
Iran on Monday blamed Israel for a sabotage attack on its underground Natanz nuclear facility that damaged the centrifuges it uses to enrich uranium there, warning that it would take revenge for the assault.
The comments by Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh represent the first official accusation levelled against Israel for the incident Sunday that cut power across the facility.
Israel has not directly claimed responsibility for the attack.
However, suspicion fell immediately on it as media there nearly uniformly reported a devastating cyberattack orchestrated by the country caused the blackout.
The Israeli military chief, Aviv Kochavi, said the country's "operations in the Middle East are not hidden from the eyes of the enemy".
Later, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "the struggle against Iran and its proxies and the Iranian armament efforts is a huge mission".
"The situation that exists today will not necessarily be the situation that will exist tomorrow," he added, in what is widely being perceived as tacit acknowledgement of the attack coming from Israel.
It is believed that Israel has launched several such attacks on Iran's nuclear facilities over the years after former US President Donald Trump took the country out of the 2015 Nuclear Accord brokered by his predecessor Barack Obama.
There has been no official statement from Israel claiming responsibility for the attacks, however its media activity around this most recent attack suggests it has stepped up its campaign against Iran and its nuclear proliferation program.
Last week an explosion damaged an Iranian ship in the Red Sea, and in 2020 an attack on Nantaz caused a huge explosion and millions in repairs.
Israel remained quiet about both attacks.