Israel’s former minister of military affairs, who has now turned into an opposition figure, says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should gag an unnamed official leaking to the press Tel Aviv’s alleged role in a recent incident at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility.
In an interview with the Israeli Army Radio on Monday, Avigdor Lieberman reacted to remarks by an unnamed “Middle Eastern intelligence officer,” who claimed in an interview with The New York Times that Israel had planted a powerful bomb at the Natanz complex in central Iran last week.
Without calling out Mossad chief Yossi Cohen by name, Lieberman blamed the leakage on the intelligence official who is seeking to succeed Netanyahu as the head of the right-wing Likud party.
“An intelligence official says that Israel is responsible for an explosion in Iran on Thursday. The country’s entire security echelon knows who it is,” Lieberman said.
“I would expect the prime minister to keep that senior intelligence official’s mouth shut, particularly as he has started his Likud primary election campaign… It just cannot be that that official not only explains what we did, but also what we didn’t do,” he added.
On Thursday, Iran said an incident affected a shed under construction at the Natanz complex, but it caused no casualties and failed to stop enrichment work at the facility.
Iran has not officially declared whether it was an accident or an act of sabotage, but the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) said the main cause has been determined and will be announced at an appropriate time.
Some Israeli officials were asked about the possibility of the regime’s involvement in the attack on Natanz facility, but they have neither confirmed nor denied involvement.
The regime often practices a policy of deliberate ambiguity when it is involved in acts of sabotage in sovereign lands.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said, “Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear capabilities.” To that end, he added, “we take actions that are better left unsaid.”
“Not every event that happens in Iran is necessarily related to us,” Israeli minister of military affairs Benny Gantz said, without denying involvement in the Natanz incident.
Commenting on the extent of the damage days later, Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said “there were advanced equipment and precision measurement devices at this site that were either destroyed or damaged.”
He said the incident had caused “significant financial damage,” adding it could “slow down the development and expansion of advanced centrifuges.”
The Iranian official added that a new and more advanced shed would be built at Natanz nuclear facility to replace the one damaged in the incident.
Israel has in the past worked to disrupt Iran’s peaceful nuclear program through the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists.
It has also conduced cyber attacks on Iranian nuclear sites. In 2010, Stuxnet, a cyber weapon widely believed to be made by the US and Israel, hit Natanz plant, in the first publicly known example of a virus being used to attack industrial machinery.
Tehran later developed an indigenous firewall securing its sensitive industrial facilities against Stuxnet.