Arab report claims Israel behind blast at Iranian ballistic missile plant, Natanz nuclear site

Last week’s blast in Iran’s Parchin ballistic missile plant and yesterday’s “incident” at the Natanz nuclear site were Israel’s work, Kuwaiti al-Jarida newspaper revealed on Friday.

Israeli Channel 13 reported that Israel is preparing for an Iranian response.

The Kuwaiti newspaper cited a “senior security source” as saying that the explosion in the vicinity of the Parchin complex, a major weapons research, development and manufacturing center, was the result of an airstrike conducted by Israeli F-35 stealth jet.

The jet reached its target without mid-air refueling, the newspaper added.

The fire at Natanz, reported by Tehran Thursday, was in its turn the effect of a cyberattack aimed at gas compression controls, al-Jarida said, adding the blast made a “crack” in the reactor building.

US-based analysts said they believe a fire struck a new centrifuge production facility, calling the incident a “military attack.”

Mideast intelligence officials said the blast was caused by an explosive device planted inside the facility. The explosion destroyed much of the aboveground parts of the site, where new centrifuges are balanced before they are put into operation.

Both attacks were aimed at Iran’s stock of UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) gas — a key component of uranium enrichment process for both reactor fuel and weapons.

The strikes resulted in Iran losing over 80 percent of its UF6 reserves, the newspaper says, which would greatly slow down Tehran’s enrichment ambitions.

According to Iran’s own official accounts, the Natanz site saw a warehouse under construction sustain minor damage during an “incident” that was now under investigation. The blast at the Parchin site — which, according to Western media reports, may have actually occurred at a nearby Khojir military complex — was explained by a “gas explosion.”

Natanz, in Iran’s central Isfahan province, hosts the country’s main uranium enrichment facility and it’s one of the sites monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency after Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal. Natanz includes underground facilities buried under some 7.6 meters (25 feet) of concrete, which offers protection from airstrikes.

In 2018, Israel’s spy agency Mossad stole a huge trove of documents from Iran in one of its most brazen missions to date. Iran’s past work yielded new clues on old activities.

In 2003 Iran was operating a nuclear weapons program, codenamed AMAD Plan, which aimed to build five nuclear weapons and prepare an underground nuclear test site. The Parchin site was a key part of that nuclear weapons research and development effort.

Last month, the board of governors at the UN’s nuclear watchdog called on Iran to stop denying the agency access to two former nuclear sites and to cooperate fully with it.