IAEA says its equipment in Iran was damaged in blast associated with Israel

Cameras and surveillance devices were destroyed in drone strike on TESA facility; nuclear watchdog claims this impaired its ability to monitor Tehran’s nuclear activity

The flag of Iran is seen in front of the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna, Austria, May 24, 2021. (Florian Schroetter/AP)
The flag of Iran is seen in front of the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna, Austria, May 24, 2021. (Florian Schroetter/AP)

The United Nations nuclear watchdog has said some of its surveillance equipment was damaged in a June attack on an Iranian nuclear site that has been tied to Israel.

The drone attack in June reportedly hit the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company, or TESA, in the city of Karaj, northwest of Tehran.

According to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the blast destroyed one of its cameras at the site and heavily damaged another.

The IAEA wrote in its report that the incident impaired the agency’s ability to monitor Iranian activities there. It also said Iran had failed to provide it with the remains of its equipment.

Iran did not identify at the time who was behind the attack, though it has accused Israel of conducting similar strikes on its nuclear facilities in recent years. It claimed the attack did not succeed in causing any damage, though satellite photos of the site indicated otherwise.

Iran had barred IAEA inspectors from entering the site in February. But still, it had allowed the watchdog to keep the surveillance equipment in place.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett appeared to hint at Israel’s role in the blast a day after the strike. “Our enemies know — not from statements, but from actions — that we are much more determined and much more clever, and that we do not hesitate to act when it is needed,” Bennett said in a speech at the Israeli Air Force’s Hatzerim Air Base.

The centrifuge production site was reportedly on a list of targets that Israel presented to the Trump administration last year, at the same time as it suggested striking Iran’s uranium enrichment site at Natanz and assassinating Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a scientist who began the country’s military nuclear program decades earlier, an intelligence source told The New York Times.

Fakhrizadeh was killed in November 2020 in an attack Iran blamed on Israel, while a mysterious explosion damaged a large number of centrifuges at the Natanz plant in April 2021. Israel’s former Mossad spy agency chief recently indicated in an interview given after he left office that Israel was behind that incident.

While Iran maintains that the Karaj facility is used for civilian purposes, it was subjected to United Nations, European Union and American sanctions for being involved in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The US lifted those sanctions under the 2015 nuclear deal, but then reimposed them in 2018 when Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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