Damage at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility
Damage at Iran's Natanz nuclear facilityReuters

A Middle Eastern intelligence official with knowledge of last week’s mysterious fire at the Natanz nuclear complex in Iran told The New York Times on Sunday that Israel was responsible for the attack, using a powerful bomb.

A member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps who was briefed on the matter also said an explosive was used.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity when discussing sensitive intelligence and operational topics.

Suspicion in Iran has focused on Israel and the United States, which have sabotaged the Iranian nuclear program in the past and have vowed to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons, according to The New York Times.

Though there was no way to verify its involvement independently, Israel’s intelligence network has shown its ability to strike in the heart of Iran, breaking into a warehouse in Tehran in 2018 and stealing half a ton of secret records documenting Iran’s nuclear project and spiriting them out of the country, the report noted. Many of these records were given by the Mossad to the International Atomic Energy Agency, with many new clues of where Iran might be hiding forbidden equipment and raw material.

Earlier on Sunday, an Iranian nuclear official acknowledged that last week’s fire at the underground nuclear facility has caused significant damage that could slow the development of advanced centrifuges used to enrich uranium, Reuters reported.

“The incident could slow down the development and production of advanced centrifuges in the medium term ... Iran will replace the damaged building with a bigger one that has more advanced equipment,” state news agency IRNA quoted the spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Behrouz Kamalvandi, as saying.

“The incident has caused significant damage but there were no casualties,” he added.

Iran on Thursday reported an "accident" at the Natanz nuclear complex in central Iran, saying there were no casualties or radioactive pollution.

Iran's Atomic Energy Organization gave no further details, but Natanz governor Ramezan-Ali Ferdowsi told the Tasnim news agency that a fire had broken out at the site.

On Friday, Iran's top security body said it had determined the cause of the fire but declined to release details.

On Friday, the Kuwaiti-based Al-Jarida newspaper reported that Israel was responsible for the fire at Natanz.

Iran's nuclear body has yet to provide an explanation for the cause of the incident, which came six days after an explosion near a military complex in Parchin area southeast of Tehran rocked the Iranian capital.

Authorities blamed that blast on "leaking gas tanks".

Iran restarted enriching uranium at Natanz last September after having agreed under the accord to put such activities there on hold.

As for the Parchin site, Iran has denied that it is related to its nuclear program, though it did admit at one point to using Parchin to test exploding bridge wires, used as nuclear detonators.