(Update: Changes headline, adds text)
Jerusalem, Apr 11 (efe-epa).- Israel’s Mossad intelligence service was behind the blackout at Iran’s huge Natanz nuclear installation, Israeli media reported Sunday.
Television Channels 11 and 13 said that, according to “Western intelligence sources,” the blackout was not an accident but rather was due to an Israeli cyberattack carried out by Mossad, causing damage that was significantly greater than what was reported by Iranian authorities.
The report coincides with a change in the description of the incident by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, which at first called it an “incident” that did not cause any damage, but later changed its stance to call it “nuclear terrorism.”
If the report is confirmed, this would be the second attack of its kind in less than a year against Natanz after sabotage carried out in July 2020, with assorted sources pointing to Israel as the author.
The event comes amid an increase in tensions between the two countries, who in recent weeks have exchanged accusations of attacks or sabotage after a series of explosions in their cargo ships.
Israel’s acting prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, making no mention of the alleged cyberattack, said Sunday that the struggle against Iran and its satellites and against Iran’s weapons program is an enormous task.
Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin – who is on an official visit to Israel – after meeting with Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Tel Aviv said Sunday that Washington’s commitment to Israel is “enduring and ironclad” and is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu on Monday.
Earlier on Sunday, Iran said that the power blackout at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant was an “act of terror” aimed at undermining the ongoing negotiations to save the 2015 nuclear deal.
The head of Iran’s nuclear agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, urged the International Atomic Energy Agency to act “against this nuclear terrorism,” warning that his country “reserves its right to take action against perpetrators and agents” responsible for it.
“To defeat the goals of the terrorist attempts, the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to develop nuclear technology on the one hand and try to lift oppressive sanctions on the other hand,” he said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.
The incident occurred in the power distribution network of Natanz, a 100,000-square-meter underground facility located in central Iran.
The incident, however, “has led to no pollution or human damage,” Atomic Energy Organization of Iran spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said, adding that the causes are “under investigation.”
He did not reveal whether the power cut affected the entire facility or just a part of it.
The power outage brought to mind a fire that broke out in a centrifuge assembly area at the Natanz facility on 2 July 2020, a blaze that caused major equipment destruction.
The IAEA has access to Natanz – and other Iranian nuclear plants – to inspect Iran’s nuclear program as part of the 2015 nuclear deal Tehran signed with the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members plus Germany in exchange for lifting sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the pact in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions on Iran.
Salehi did not blame any specific party for the incident, but the power outage reportedly has been linked to Israel. A virus believed to have been developed by the US and Israel was used to attack the facility in 2010.
Several Israeli media outlets reported that the blackout was the result of a cyberattack, while a member of the Iranian Parliament’s Energy committee, Malek Shariati Niasar, described what happened as “very suspicious.”
“This incident on National Nuclear Technology Day and amid Iran’s efforts to force the West to lift sanctions is highly suspected of (being) sabotage and infiltration,” he posted to his Twitter account.