AEOI condemned the incident, calling it a “terrorist act,” according to the Iranian telegram channel of the Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), a branch of the Iranian armed forces.
Just hours after Iranian officials reported the incident, Israeli army chief Aviv Kochavi said the country’s “operations in the Middle East are not hidden from the eyes of the enemy.”
“They are watching us, seeing the skills and carefully considering what they are doing,” he said, speaking at a memorial service in Jerusalem on Sunday to mark fallen soldiers.
Reports in several Israeli media outlets quoted intelligence officials on Sunday that the Israeli national secret service Mossad was responsible for the incident. While few details of the unnamed officials are offered, some outlets refer to them as “Western intelligence sources”, although it is not immediately clear whether or not “Western” implies the possibility that the sources are from Israel.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s office did not comment on the reports, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Iran on Sunday to mark the anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel.
“The fight against Iran and its deputies, as well as the Iranian armaments efforts, are a great mission,” he said and appeared alongside Kochavi, the head of the Israeli Defense Forces, and his commanders-in-chief and Defense Minister Benny Gantz. “The situation that exists today will not necessarily be the situation that will exist tomorrow.”
Netanyahu will meet with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who is visiting the country, on Monday. It is a visit by a member of the Biden government at the highest level to Israel and comes days after the talks in Vienna to resume negotiations on a possible new nuclear deal between Iran and a US-led group of world powers.
US officials were also in Vienna and met with representatives of the world powers who are still involved in the deal. You have not met with Iranian officials directly.
Former US President Donald Trump imposed new sanctions on Iran when he withdrew the United States from the deal. Iranian officials have claimed the US must lift all Trump-era sanctions and return to the nuclear deal before it respects the deal again.
Israel’s leader reiterated its strong opposition this week to the prospect of a re-established Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement, saying Israel is “not bound by an agreement that paves the way for Iran to develop nuclear weapons”.
Iran condemns “terrorist acts”
Iran leaders condemned the incident.
Akbar Salehi, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency, said: “Iran reserves the right to react against the perpetrators and those who committed the terrorist act,” the IRGC reported.
“Today’s attack shows that the enemies of Iran’s progress and advancement in nuclear science and the nuclear negotiations are desperate for terrorist acts against nuclear technology at Natanz [nuclear facility] . “
In reports from the Iranian News Agency, other Iranian officials suggested the facility may have been attacked and speculated that the facility may have been targeted as the country debated with its Western signatories over a revival of the Iranian nuclear deal.
Malek Shariati Niaser, a member of the Iranian parliament, said: “The power outage in Natanz on the anniversary of National Nuclear Day is suspect and may be the result of sabotage while Iran is trying to convince western countries to lift the sanctions.” official news website Entekhab.ir reports.
A spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency told CNN on Sunday by email that the agency had been informed of the media reports.
“We currently have no comment,” he said.
During the 15th anniversary of Iran’s National Nuclear Technology Day on Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced new uranium enrichment centrifuges at the plant, stating that while Iran’s nuclear activities are for “peaceful and civil purposes,” the country’s nuclear capabilities are stronger than all other time before.
“A chain of 164 IR-6 centrifuges was launched today,” said Rouhani on Saturday, according to state Press TV. “It can give us ten times more products than the previous chain.”
The Natanz nuclear power plant lost a building when a fire broke out last July. The Iranian government said at the time that it was an attack on its nuclear program. It was also the target of the 2010 Stuxnet cyberattack that security experts believe was carried out by Israel and the United States.
CNN’s Andrew Carey and Amir Tal reported from Jerusalem, Ramin Mostaghim from Tehran, Sarah Dean from London.