Iran accuses Israel of June attack on civilian nuclear site

Iran accuses Israel of June attack on civilian nuclear site
Rabiei on Tuesday accused Israeli saboteurs of seeking to derail the nuclear negotiations in Vienna, state-run IRNA news agency reported. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 07 July 2021

Iran accuses Israel of June attack on civilian nuclear site

Iran accuses Israel of June attack on civilian nuclear site
  • At the time, officials stressed that the attack had caused no damage but Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei revised that account confessing to damage

DUBAI: Iran accused Israel on Tuesday of mounting a sabotage attack on a nuclear facility near Tehran last month.
The country’s state-run news agency reported as authorities acknowledged for the first time that the mysterious assault had caused structural damage to the site.
Authorities announced in late June that they had prevented saboteurs from attacking a site located in Karaj, a city about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of the Iranian capital. They gave no details about what the targeted building belonging to Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency contained, or how it was targeted.
The sudden admission last month came just days after the election victory of the country’s hard-line judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, and followed a series of other attacks on Iran’s nuclear program, including the killing of a top nuclear scientist.
At the time, officials stressed that the attack had caused no casualties or damage. But Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei revised that account Tuesday, confessing to damage inflicted on the building’s ceiling.
“A hole appeared on the ceiling of one of the industrial sheds, so the roof was removed for repairs,” Rabiei said, seeking to explain satellite images of the site widely circulated online that appeared to show the roof’s abrupt removal following the reported attack. Rabiei acknowledged the images were taken when the roof was removed for restoration.
“Damage to equipment was not remarkable,” he added, without elaborating.
The allegedly foiled attack last month came amid a flurry of diplomatic activity, as diplomats in Vienna struggle to resurrect Tehran’s now-tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which put curbs on its enrichment activities in return for relief from US sanctions. Former President Donald Trump withdrew America from the landmark accord three years ago.
That prompted Iran to gradually abandon the deal’s limits on uranium enrichment, setting off a series of tense incidents in the Mideast. To exert pressure on the West for sanctions relief, Iran is now enriching uranium to 60 percent, its highest ever levels, although still short of weapons grade 90 percent.
Rabiei on Tuesday accused Israeli saboteurs of seeking to derail the nuclear negotiations in Vienna, state-run IRNA news agency reported.
“The Zionist regime carried out these actions to signal it can stop Iran and to say that there is no need to talk with Iran,” he said. “But whenever sabotage has happened, our strength has increased.”
There was no immediate comment on the accusation from Israel, which has not claimed responsibility for any of the alleged attacks on Iran’s nuclear program in recent months.
Israel fiercely opposed the 2015 deal, which then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned as a “historic mistake.” In recent weeks, however, Israel’s new government has struck a softer tone. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told his American counterpart that Israel had “serious reservations” about the accord under discussion in Vienna but that the country would engage constructively and make its objections privately.
Little is known about the reported assault in Karaj, located near various industrial sites, including pharmaceutical production facilities where Iran has manufactured its domestic coronavirus vaccine. Social media in Iran had crackled with unconfirmed reports that an unmanned aerial drone had targeted the facility.
But the latest attack came at a sensitive time for Iran, in the midst of a political transition and on the precipice of a return to the historic nuclear deal.
The country has, meanwhile, struggled to stem what it describes as an Israeli-led campaign against its nuclear program. Earlier this year, Iran’s underground Natanz nuclear facility experienced a mysterious blackout that damaged some of its centrifuges. Last July, unexplained fires struck the advanced centrifuge assembly plant at Natanz, which authorities later described as sabotage. Iran is now rebuilding that facility deep inside a nearby mountain.
Iran also blamed Israel for the November killing of a scientist who began the country’s military nuclear program decades earlier.


Six loyalist fighters killed in Syria arms depot blast: monitor

Six loyalist fighters killed in Syria arms depot blast: monitor
Updated 20 October 2021

Six loyalist fighters killed in Syria arms depot blast: monitor

Six loyalist fighters killed in Syria arms depot blast: monitor
  • It was not initially known what caused the blast

BEIRUT: Six members of a pro-government militia were killed Wednesday in an arms depot blast in the central Syrian province of Hama, a war monitor reported.
Seven other members of the National Defense Forces militia were wounded in the blast, the cause of which remains largely unclear, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.


Kuwait’s emir launches process for amnesty pardoning dissidents

Kuwait’s emir launches process for amnesty pardoning dissidents
Updated 20 October 2021

Kuwait’s emir launches process for amnesty pardoning dissidents

Kuwait’s emir launches process for amnesty pardoning dissidents
  • This could potentially end a months-long standoff with opposition

KUWAIT: Kuwait’s ruling emir on Wednesday paved the way for an amnesty pardoning dissidents that has been a major condition of opposition lawmakers to end a months-long standoff with the appointed government that has paralyzed legislative work.
Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah tasked the parliament speaker, the prime minister and the head of the supreme judicial council to recommend the conditions and terms of the amnesty ahead of it being issued by decree, Sheikh Nawaf’s office said.


Syrian army shelling kills at least 11 civilians

Syrian army shelling kills at least 11 civilians
Updated 20 October 2021

Syrian army shelling kills at least 11 civilians

Syrian army shelling kills at least 11 civilians
  • Among the casualties were several school children

AMMAN: At least 11 civilians died on Wednesday in a Syrian army shelling of residential areas of rebel-held Ariha city, witnesses and rescue workers said.
The shelling from Syrian army outposts, which came shortly after a roadside bomb killed at least 13 military personnel in Damascus, fell on residential areas in the city in Idlib province.
Among the casualties were several school children, witnesses and medical workers in the opposition enclave said.


13 killed in Damascus army bus bombing: state media

13 killed in Damascus army bus bombing: state media
Updated 20 October 2021

13 killed in Damascus army bus bombing: state media

13 killed in Damascus army bus bombing: state media
  • Images released by SANA showed a burning bus

DAMASCUS: A bomb attack on an army bus in Damascus killed at least 13 people Wednesday in the bloodiest such attack in years, the SANA state news agency reported.
“A terrorist bombing using two explosive devices targeted a passing bus” on a key bridge in the capital, the news agency said, reporting an initial casualty toll of 13 dead and three wounded.
Images released by SANA showed a burning bus and what it said was a bomb squad defusing a third device that had been planted in the same area.
Damascus had been mostly spared such violence in recent years, especially since troops and allied militia retook the last significant rebel bastion near the capital in 2018.


Those who want to stop Beirut port blast probe are involved in the crime, say activists

Those who want to stop Beirut port blast probe are involved in the crime, say activists
Updated 20 October 2021

Those who want to stop Beirut port blast probe are involved in the crime, say activists

Those who want to stop Beirut port blast probe are involved in the crime, say activists
  • Civil society members stage a sit-in outside the Justice Palace to show ‘solidarity with the judiciary’

BEIRUT: Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the investigation into the August 2020 port explosion, resumed investigations on Tuesday after being notified by the Lebanese Civil Court of Cassation of its second decision to reject the request submitted by the defendant in the case of MP Ali Hassan Khalil.

Normal service resumed at the Justice Palace in Beirut after a long vacation. The Lebanese army guarding roads leading to the palace and Ain Remaneh, which was the arena of bloody events on Thursday, over protests to dismiss Bitar from the case. The repercussions of these events have affected the political scene, its parties and the people.

Civil society activists under the auspices of the “Lebanese Opposition Front” staged a sit-in outside the Justice Palace to show “solidarity with the Judiciary carrying out its national duties and support for Judge Bitar to face the threats.”

Speaking on behalf of the protestors, activist Dr. Ziad Abdel Samad said: “A free and sovereign state cannot exist without a legitimate authority, judiciary and justice.”

Abdel Samad urged “the defendants to appear before Judge Bitar, because the innocent normally show up and defend themselves instead of resorting to threats.”

“We have reached this low point today because of a ruling elite allied with the Hezbollah statelet, protected by illegal arms.

“They want to dismiss Judge Bitar in all arbitrary ways and threats because he has come so close to the truth after they managed to dismiss the former judge, hiding behind their immunities because they know they are involved in the crime.”

Abdel Samad claimed that “those making threats are involved in the crime.”

Regarding the Tayouneh events that took place last week, he said: “They took to the streets to demonstrate peacefully, as they claimed, but they almost got us into a new civil war as a result of the hatred and conspiracies against Lebanon.”

Lawyer May Al-Khansa, known for her affiliation with Hezbollah, submitted a report at the Lebanese Civil Court of Cassation against the leader of the Lebanese Forces party, Samir Geagea, Judge Bitar and “all those who appear in the investigation to be involved, accomplices or partners in crimes of terrorism and terrorism funding, undermining the state’s authority, inciting a strife, and other crimes against the law and the Lebanese Constitution.”

Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah on Monday night waged an unprecedented campaign of accusations and incitement against the Lebanese Forces party and its leader.    

Nasrallah accused them of being “the biggest threat for the presence of Christians in Lebanon” and said they were “forming alliances with Daesh.”

In a clear threat to Geagea and his party, Nasrallah bragged in his speech of having “100,000 trained fighters,” calling on Christians to “stand against this murderer.”

Nasrallah accused Bitar of “carrying out a foreign agenda targeting Hezbollah in the Beirut port crime” and of “being supported by embassies and authorities, turning him into a dictator.”

During the parliamentary session on Tuesday, no contact was made between Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces. However, a handshake was spotted between the Lebanese Forces’ MP Pierre Abu Assi and the Amal Movement’s MP Hani Kobeissi.

Minister of Culture Mohammed Mortada, who represents Hezbollah, said “Hezbollah’s ministers will attend the ministerial session if Prime Minister Najib Mikati calls for one, but the justice minister and the judiciary must find a solution to the issue of lack of trust in Bitar.”

Several calls were made on Monday night between different political groups to prevent escalation and calm the situation.

Efforts are being made to reach a settlement that allows Bitar to keep his position and for defendants in the Beirut port case — who are former ministers and MPs — to be referred to the Supreme Judicial Council for prosecution.

Elsewhere, parliament dropped the proposal of a women’s quota ensuring female participation through  a minimum of 26 seats.

It passed a move to allow expats to vote for the 128 MPs and dropped the decision to allocate six additional seats representing them.

The parliament’s decision angered Gebran Bassil, who heads the Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc. Following the parliamentary session, Bassil referred to “a political game in the matter of expats’ right to vote, which we will not allow to happen.”