Security cabinet set to meet next week amid growing tensions between Israel and Iran.
The Mossad was reportedly behind the cyberattack at Natanz on Sunday that caused extensive damage to Iran’s main uranium enrichment facility.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the security cabinet’s first meeting in two months to discuss Iran next Sunday amid increased tensions with Tehran.
Western sources quoted in Israeli media said the attack, which was initially referred to as an “accident” by Iran, was carried out by the Mossad.
Iran admitted on Sunday evening that the so-called “accident” was the result of a “terrorist” act.
The country’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency needed to deal with what he called nuclear terrorism. Iran reserves the right to take action against the perpetrators, he was quoted as saying.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif placed the blame for the attack on Natanz on Israel and warned that Iran would take revenge, at a meeting of the Iranian parliament’s Commission of National-Security and Foreign-Policy on Monday, according to the Iranian IRNA news.
“The political and military officials of the Zionist regime had explicitly stated that they would not allow progress in lifting the oppressive sanctions and now they think that they will achieve their goal, but the Zionists will get their answer in further nuclear progress,” said Zarif. “Natanz will be stronger than ever with more advanced machines, and if they think our hand in negotiation is weak, this act will strengthen our position in the negotiations.”
“According to the Zionists, they want to take revenge on the Iranian people for their success in lifting the oppressive sanctions, but we will not allow it and we will take revenge for these actions from the Zionists themselves,” said Zarif, stressing the need for proper protection of facilities and nuclear scientists and the “need for attention…in order not to fall into the cunning trap designed by the Zionist regime.”
The incident at Natanz was not an “accident,” and the damage was worse than what Iran had initially presented to the public, a source confirmed to The Jerusalem Post. Western sources said the facility was hit by a cyberattack.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi gave a rare strong hint pointing to Israeli involvement on Sunday.
“The IDF’s actions throughout the Middle East are not hidden from our enemies’ vision, who are observing us, seeing our capabilities and carefully considering their next steps,” he said in a speech honoring Israel’s fallen soldiers.
“By virtue of clever operational activities, the past year was one of the most secure years that the citizens of the State of Israel have known,” Kohavi said. “We will continue to act, combining power and discretion, determination and responsibility – all of this to guarantee the security of the State of Israel.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at an Independence Day event on Sunday with the heads of the security branches, said: “The struggle against Iran and its proxies and the Iranian armament efforts is a huge mission.”
In a possible reference to the reported Mossad operation taking the uranium enrichment machines off-line within hours of their launch, he said: “The situation that exists today will not necessarily be the situation that will exist tomorrow.”
Natanz has in the past been targeted by Israeli cyber operations, according to foreign reports. In 2010, the Stuxnet virus attacked the facility in a joint operation with the US, destroying more than 1,000 centrifuges.
Iran said there no injuries or pollution were caused by the incident on Sunday. Malek Shariati-Niasar, an Iranian MP and spokesman for a parliamentary energy commission, wrote that the incident was highly suspected as being “sabotage,” being that it occurred on Iran’s National Nuclear Technology Day and amid the renewal of talks between the Islamic Republic and Western nations on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal of 2015.
The Iranian parliament was following the details of the incident and would announce an opinion on the matter after receiving and summarizing the information, he said.
Earlier on Sunday, Iran said a problem with the electrical distribution grid of the Natanz site had caused an incident.
Iranian MP Ali Haddad placed the blame for the incident on Israel.
“Yesterday the assassination of a nuclear scientist and today the attack on the Iranian ship Saviz and the sabotage of the Natanz nuclear facility,” he tweeted.
Haddad called for deterrence and not restraint. “When commitment is translated as restraint, the Zionist enemy dares to strike more blows,” he said.
The attack against Natanz took place a day after Iran began injecting uranium hexafluoride gas into advanced IR-6 and IR-5 centrifuges at Natanz and was revealed as US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was visiting Israel.
It also came less than a month after the IAEA reported that Iran had restarted enrichment at the Natanz facility and less than a year after Israel was blamed by foreign reports for an alleged attack on the facility, which reportedly had significantly impacted Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran is still nowhere near having recovered to the point where it had been before that July 2020 explosion in terms of its capacity for assembling new advanced centrifuges, the Post recently reported.
In the alleged attack last year, Iranian reports originally referred to the explosion as an “incident” without providing further details.
“The centrifuge assembly hall was blown up by the enemy a few months ago, but we did not stop and temporarily set up the hall that made up for the lost hall,” Iranian nuclear chief Salehi said Saturday, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency. He did not specify which “enemy” was behind the attack last year.
Iran is working to move sensitive facilities at Natanz further underground and hopes the new underground halls will be ready next year, Salehi said.
Tensions are rising between Israel and Iran amid a number of attacks on Iranian and Israeli maritime vessels, with recent reports claiming that Israel has hit dozens of Iranian ships in recent years.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Iranian military blamed Israel and the US for causing an explosion on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Saviz vessel in the Red Sea, Sputnik news reported last Thursday.
“The United States undoubtedly has a hand in all attempts to undermine and harm Iran,” the spokesman said in a statement, adding that Tehran was not accusing any of the Gulf states of being involved in the incident.
Iran is meeting with European and American officials to discuss a possible return to the JCPOA.
Netanyahu has warned multiple times in the past week that Israel would defend itself against Iranian threats, stressing that Jerusalem would work to combat Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.