'The IDF's actions are not hidden from our enemies' eyes'

IDF chief hints at Israeli involvement in recent alleged attacks on Iran

Comment comes amid reports of apparent cyberattack on Iranian nuclear site, last week’s reported Israeli commando raid on Iranian command ship in Red Sea

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a memorial ceremony on Jerusalem's Mount Herzl national cemetery on April 11, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi speaks at a memorial ceremony on Jerusalem's Mount Herzl national cemetery on April 11, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

IDF Chief of Staf Aviv Kohavi appeared to hint at Israeli involvement in recent attacks on Iranian assets in recent weeks on Sunday, saying that Tehran was “carefully considering” how to respond.

“The Israel Defense Forces’ actions throughout the Middle East are not hidden from our enemies’ eyes. They are watching us, seeing our capabilities and carefully considering their next steps,” Kohavi said.

The military commander made his remarks during a ceremony at the Mount Herzl national cemetery in honor of the soldiers who fell during Israel’s wars, ahead of Memorial Day on Wednesday.

Kohavi’s comments came hours after reports emerged from Iran that its Natanz nuclear site had suffered a problem involving its electrical distribution grid and days after Israeli commandos reportedly detonated limpet mines on an alleged Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps command ship in the Red Sea.

This October 1, 2020, satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc. shows the Iranian cargo ship MV Saviz in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)

Israel has not officially commented on either case. Iran has not accused Jerusalem of being behind the electrical issue at Natanz, but the Jewish state was widely assumed to be responsible in light of similar incidents in the past that were allegedly the result of Israeli cyberattacks.

In Sunday’s case, power was cut to the entire facility, including above-ground workshops and underground enrichment halls, Iran’s civilian nuclear program spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi told state television.

“Here the power has been cut off indeed, and we do not know the reason for the outage,” he said. “The incident is under investigation and we will inform you about the reason as we find out.”

Israel has been blamed for an attack on an advanced centrifuge development and assembly plant at Natanz in July. It has also been blamed, together with the US, for the Stuxnet virus that sabotaged Iranian enrichment centrifuges a decade ago.

The aftermath of an explosion and a fire at an advanced centrifuge assembly plant at Iran’s Natanz nuclear site, July 5, 2020. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)

Tehran and Jerusalem are also currently engaged in a maritime shadow war, with both sides blaming the other for explosions on ships.

Amid rising tensions in the region surrounding Iran’s nuclear activities and a possible revival of the 2015 nuclear accord, a deal Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vehemently opposed, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Israel on Sunday for talks with senior officials.

Iran announced on Saturday that it had started up advanced IR-6 and IR-5 centrifuges that enrich uranium more quickly, in a new breach of its undertakings under the troubled 2015 nuclear agreement.

It also said it has begun mechanical tests on an even faster nuclear centrifuge: the IR-9. The output of the IR-9 centrifuge, when operational, would be 50 times quicker than the first Iranian centrifuge, the IR-1, which is the only one that the 2015 deal allows it to use. Iran’s nuclear program is also developing IR-8 centrifuges.

In this photo taken and released on April 10, 2021, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, a new IR-9 centrifuge is displayed in a ceremony to commemorate Iran’s new nuclear achievements in Tehran.(Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

On Friday night, Kamalvandi said the country was enriching material at a rapid pace — in violation of the nuclear deal — adding that should “Western parties” continue to delay the lifting of sanctions, they would be the “big loser.”

Iran met with the deal’s signatories in Vienna last week. The talks broke Friday, with no clear signs of progress.

The US said it had offered “very serious” ideas on reviving the nuclear accord but was waiting for Tehran to reciprocate.

US President Joe Biden hopes to return to the 2015 agreement, which his predecessor Donald Trump had abandoned as he launched a “maximum pressure” campaign in hopes of bringing Tehran to its knees, but has maintained that he will only remove sanctions on Iran once it returns to compliance with the nuclear deal.

Netanyahu staunchly opposes this effort, seeing the 2015 agreement as insufficient in halting Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missile development and other activities in the region.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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