And in a bizarre twist, the spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy organisation has apparently sustained serious injuries after slipping and falling during a visit to the site to inspect the damage which had been caused. Iranian authorities have described yesterday’s incident as an act of “nuclear terrorism” and said Tehran reserves the right to take action against the perpetrators.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted by Iranian state television as saying: “The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions.
“They have publicly said that they will not allow this.
“But we will take our revenge from the Zionists.”
Numerous Israeli media outlets have quoted unnamed intelligence sources as saying that the country’s Mossad spy service carried out a successful sabotage operation at the Natanz site in a move which is likely to have set back enrichment work there by months.
Israel has not officially commented on the incident.
However, it has long been a critic of Iran’s nuclear programme and is believed to have been instrumental in persuading former US President Donald Trump to pull his country of the landmark JPOCA agreement aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, citing alleged violations.
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During a speech yesterday at an event to mark the 73rd anniversary of Israel’s foundation next week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no reference to the incident.
However, he said: “The battle against Iran and its proxies and its nuclearisation is a massive task.
Today’s situation does not mean it would be the same tomorrow.
“Certainly, a regional power, but in some ways also a global one.
“I wish all of us that you continue down this path, and that you continue to keep the sword of David in your hands.”
The Natanz uranium-enrichment site, much of which is located underground, is one of several Iranian facilities which is monitored by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told a news conference on Monday the Natanz incident could be considered as an “act against humanity”, adding that it had caused “no contamination or casualties” at the site.
He added: “Our nuclear experts are assessing the damage but I can assure you that Iran will replace damaged uranium enrichment centrifuges in Natanz with advanced ones.”
A senior US administration official insisted Washington had no involvement in the incident.
They said: “We have nothing to add to speculation about the causes.”
Iran also blamed Israeli agents for the assassination of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in November, when the car he was travelling in was targeted on the outskirts of Tehran.
Iranian journalist Reza Khaasteh tweeted that Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), had been injured during a freak accident during his visit to the site.
Mr Khaasteh tweeted: “You won’t believe it, but Kamalvandi, the spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy organization, just broke his ankle and head in an “incident” during his visit to damages caused by the attack against Natanz facility.”
He later added: “Kamalvandi says he fell into a hole covered by aluminium sheets from an altitude of over 7 meters.
“The Iranian spokesman says he has broken both his left and right legs.”
Mr Khaasteh also tweeted pictures of Mr Kamalvandi apparently lying in a hospital bed.