Former Israeli PM says Iran nuclear plant bomb 'may have been planted 10-15 years ago'

Former Israeli PM says Iran nuclear plant bomb 'may have been planted 10-15 years ago'
Former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert said the foundations of Sunday's Natanz uranium enrichment facility attack in Iran would have probably been set a long time ago.
3 min read
14 April, 2021
Ehud Olmert was Israel's prime minister from 2006 to 2009 [Getty]
Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said that a bomb that was detonated earlier this week at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility plant was likely placed there over 10 years ago.

On Sunday, a suspected Israeli sabotage attack targeted an electrical system at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility was attacked, causing major damage

The attack, which hit an underground plant just days after tests on a new line of uranium enrichment centrifuges, was the third to target Iran's nuclear facilities.

In an interview with the Israeli news website Ynet, Olmert said the foundations of Sunday's attack would have been laid a long time ago.

“I don’t know what happened there, who set it off, if it was planted in that year or another, 10 years ago or 15, I don’t know,” Olmert explained.

“If these things happened, I can think of all sorts of operations that could have caused this, and it is possible the foundations for this were laid a long time ago.”

He asserted that “these kinds of missions, whether we carried them out or not, are not ‘somebody broke in two nights ago and planted things there.’"

"These things happen when all sorts of machines, long before they are even installed, they are already booby-trapped and waiting for the right time,” Olmert added.

He blamed current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for leaks to Israeli and foreign media that attributed the strike to the Mossad.

Olmert was also adamant that he had no direct knowledge of the attack or who was behind it.

Israeli-operated ship hit

The mysterious blast at Natanz has sharply heightened tensions between Iran and Israel, who are already engaged in a shadowy conflict involving sabotage and proxy groups in on land and sea across the Middle East.

On Tuesday, an Israeli-operated ship was attacked in the Gulf of Oman near the coasts of the UAE and Iran, in  apparent retaliation for the Natanz attack.

Security sources quoted by Israel's Channel 12 television, said the Hyperion Ray vessel was "lightly damaged" off the Emirati port of Fujairah.

Iran had previously vowed to take "revenge" on Israel for the Natanz incident, which came soon after the announcement of indirect talks between the US and Iran regarding a return to the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal, which the Trump administration withdrew from in 2018, reimposing crippling sanctions.

"If [Israel] thought that they can stop Iran from following up on lifting sanctions from the Iranian people, then they made a very bad gamble," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned.

Iran would make the enrichment plant "more powerful" by using more advanced centrifuges, he added.

IRNA said Iran would also add "1,000 centrifuges with 50 percent more capacity to the machines present in Natanz, in addition to replacing" those damaged in the attack.

"The preparations [for the implementation of this decision] will begin tonight" in Natanz, said the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).

The 60 percent enriched uranium would be used to "produce molybdenum for use in the manufacture of various radiotherapeutic products", the organisation added.

Zarif, after talks with his visiting Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, also warned Israel's ally the United States it would gain no extra leverage in Vienna through "acts of sabotage" and sanctions.

Read also: Zarif and Lavrov meet in Tehran - US sanctions makes negotiations 'more difficult'

The White House has denied all US involvement in the Natanz incident.

Unsourced Israeli media reports attributed the blast to Israeli security services.

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