Was Israel behind drone attack on Iran military installation?
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian criticised the drone attack as ‘cowardly’ and aimed at creating ‘insecurity’ in the country.
Israel appears to have been behind a drone attack on a military factory in Iran, United States officials say.
Iran said on Sunday that it intercepted drones targeting the facility near the central city of Isfahan, adding there were no casualties.
The extent of damage could not be independently ascertained. Iranian state media released footage showing a flash in the sky and emergency vehicles at the scene.
Israel was behind the drone attack, The Wall Street Journal cited unnamed US officials and people familiar with the strike as saying. No response was immediately available from Israeli authorities.
One US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters news agency that it did appear Israel was involved. Other American officials declined to comment beyond saying the US played no role.
Meanwhile in Ukraine, which accuses Iran of supplying hundreds of drones to Russia to attack targets in Ukrainian cities, a senior aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy linked the incident directly to the war there.
“Explosive night in Iran,” Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted. “Did warn you.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian criticised the drone attack as “cowardly” and aimed at creating “insecurity” in the country. State TV broadcast comments by lawmaker Hossein Mirzaie saying there was “strong speculation” Israel was behind it.
Iran’s defence ministry did not comment on who carried out the attack. However, Iran has been a target of suspected Israeli strikes in the past amid a shadow war with its Middle East rival after its nuclear deal with world powers collapsed.
A ministry statement described three drones being launched at the facility, with two of them successfully shot down. A third apparently made it through to strike the building, causing “minor damage” to its roof and wounding no one.
Isfahan’s factory is 350km (217 miles) south of the capital Tehran. The ministry called the site a “workshop” without elaborating. It is home to both a large airbase built for its fleet of US-made F-14 fighter jets and its nuclear fuel research and production centre.
When Amir-Abdollahian was asked if it would affect the country’s nuclear programme, he responded, “Such moves can’t impact our nuclear scientists’ will and intentions to achieve peaceful nuclear energy.”
Iran’s government faces challenges both at home and abroad as its nuclear programme rapidly enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels since the collapse of its atomic accord with world powers.
In separate incidents on Sunday, a refinery fire broke out in the country’s northwest and a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck nearby, killing three people.
Israel is suspected of launching a series of attacks on Iran, including an April 2021 assault on its underground Natanz nuclear facility that damaged its centrifuges. In 2020, Iran blamed Israel for a sophisticated attack that killed its top nuclear scientist.
Israeli officials rarely acknowledge operations carried out by the country’s secret military units or its Mossad intelligence agency.
Talks between Iran and world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal have stalled since September. Under the pact, abandoned by Washington in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, Tehran agreed to limit nuclear work in return for the easing of sanctions.