- Drones target a factory near Isfahan, and there were no casualties
- Iran: “cowardly” attack will not slow down nuclear activity
- Israel refuses to comment
DUBAI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A US official said on Sunday that Israel appeared to be behind a drone attack on a military factory in Iran.
Iran claimed that it had intercepted drones that targeted a target for the military industry near the central city of Isfahan, and said that there were no casualties or serious damage.
The extent of the damage cannot be independently verified. Iranian state media published footage showing a flash in the sky and ambulances at the scene.
An Israeli army spokesman declined to comment. Arch-enemy Israel has long said it is ready to strike Iranian targets if diplomacy fails to curb Tehran’s nuclear or missile programmes, but it has a policy of refraining from commenting on specific incidents.
Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said no US military forces were involved in strikes in Iran, but declined to comment further.
The Wall Street Journal reported, citing several anonymous sources, that US officials were implying an Israeli role in the attack. A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters it appeared that Israel was involved. Several other US officials declined to comment, going beyond saying Washington played no role.
Tehran has not officially blamed what Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabadullahian called the “cowardly” attack aimed at creating “insecurity” in Iran. However, state television broadcast statements by Representative Hussein Mirzaei, in which he said that there was “strong speculation” that Israel was behind this.
The attack came amid tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear work and its supply of weapons – including long-range “suicide drones” – for Russia’s war in Ukraine, as well as months of anti-government demonstrations at home.
The extent of the damage could not be independently confirmed. The Iranian Ministry of Defense said that the explosion caused only minor damage and there were no injuries.
“Such actions will not affect our experts’ determination to make progress in our peaceful nuclear work,” Amirabadullahian told reporters in televised remarks.
An Israeli strike on Iran would be the first under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since his return to office last month at the helm of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.
In Ukraine, which accuses Iran of supplying Russia with hundreds of drones to attack civilian targets in Ukrainian cities far from the front, a top aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky linked the incident directly to the war there.
“Explosive night in Iran,” Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter. “Did I warn you?”
Iran has acknowledged sending the drones to Russia, but says they were sent before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Moscow denies its forces have used Iranian drones in Ukraine, although several have been shot down and recovered there.
“At approximately 23:30 (2000 GMT) on Saturday evening, a failed attack was carried out using precision aerial vehicles on one of the ministry’s workshop sites,” the defense ministry said in a statement broadcast on state television.
She added that one of the drones was shot down, “and the other two drones fell into a defense trap and exploded. They only caused minor damage to the roof of a workshop building. There were no injuries.”
A military official in the region said that given the location of the strike in central Iran and the size of the drones, it is likely that the attack was carried out from within Iran’s borders.
On the other hand, the Islamic Republic of Iran News Agency reported, in the early hours of Sunday morning, that a huge fire broke out in a motor oil factory in an industrial area near the city of Tabriz, in the northwest of the country. It quoted a local official as saying later that an oil leak had caused the fire.
Iran has accused Israel in the past of planning attacks using agents inside Iranian territory. Tehran said in July it had arrested a sabotage team of Kurdish activists working for Israel who planned to bomb a “sensitive” defense industry center in Isfahan.
Several Iranian nuclear sites are located in Isfahan province, including Natanz, the focus of Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which Iran accuses Israel of sabotaging in 2021. A number of explosions and fires have occurred around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial sites in recent years.
Talks between Iran and world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal have stalled since September. Under the deal, which Washington abandoned in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, Tehran agreed to limit nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief.
Iran’s clerical rulers have also faced domestic unrest in recent months, with a widespread crackdown on anti-establishment demonstrations, spurred by the death of a woman detained for allegedly violating strict Islamic dress codes.
Written by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by Peter Graf
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