Iran Vows 'Revenge Against Israel' After Natanz Uranium Plant Sabotage

Iranian officials have placed the blame squarely on Israel for a Sunday sabotage attack against the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, with civilian and government leaders calling for "revenge" against their longtime Middle East adversary.

Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Monday that the country's first generation of enhanced uranium enrichment centrifuges were damaged in the Sunday attack, which led to a fire. The head of the country's civilian nuclear agency, Behrouz Kamalvandi, was reportedly injured after falling through a damaged portion of the facility after the attack he described as a "cyberattack." Although Iranian officials declined to say whether the "electrical grid" issue was a "technical defect or sabotage," by Monday, top Tehran officials said they were certain Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, was behind the assault.

"The answer for Natanz is to take revenge against Israel," Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said. "Israel will receive its answer through its own path."

The Associated Press and Iranian state TV said that Saeed "did not elaborate" on his accusations Monday. Even numerous members of Israel's media and scientific community said it's hard for them to label Sunday's blackout a coincidence.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that the Natanz facility in central Iran would be reconstructed with even more advanced machines than before the alleged attack—something that is sure to disrupt ongoing denuclearization talks with the United States. The recently installed IR-1 centrifuges would have allowed Iran to more quickly enrich uranium, a process vehemently opposed by Israel and other Western officials.

"The Zionists wanted to take revenge against the Iranian people for their success on the path of lifting sanctions," Zarif was quoted as saying to Iran's state-run IRNA news agency Monday. "But we do not allow (it), and we will take revenge for this action against the Zionists."

Just hours after the incident was reported by local and regional news agencies Sunday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which oversees Tehran's nuclear program, said it was aware of the attack reports but declined to elaborate.

Natanz has been targeted by sabotage efforts in the past and numerous nuclear scientists associated with Iran's nuclear program have been assassinated. Another "mysterious explosion" occurred at the Natanz facility last July, as was reported by state-run TV, in an act Iranian officials also described as "sabotage." At the time, Iran blamed the Stuxnet computer virus, which they believe to be a joint U.S.-Israeli technological creation. In November, a scientist who started Iran's military nuclear program was killed, prompted Iran to again blame Mossad agents.

Newsweek reached out to representatives for Israel in Washington for any additional response to the Natanz incident.

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A general view of the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility on April 9, 2007, 180 miles south of Tehran, Iran. Majid Saeedi/Getty Images