Iran closed nuclear facilities for a day following attack on Israel, says IAEA chief

Inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities paused after Tehran’s unprecedented assault, says head of UN’s nuclear watchdog

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi attends IAEA Board of Governors emergency meeting in Vienna, Austria, on April 11, 2024. (Joe Klamar/AFP)
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Rafael Grossi attends IAEA Board of Governors emergency meeting in Vienna, Austria, on April 11, 2024. (Joe Klamar/AFP)

UNITED NATIONS — Iran temporarily closed its nuclear facilities over “security considerations” in the wake of its massive missile and drone attack on Israel over the weekend, the head of the UN’s atomic watchdog said Monday.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a UN Security Council meeting, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi was asked whether he was concerned about the possibility of an Israeli strike on an Iranian nuclear facility in retaliation for the unprecedented attack.

“We are always concerned about this possibility. What I can tell you is that our inspectors in Iran were informed by the Iranian government that yesterday [Sunday], all the nuclear facilities that we are inspecting every day would remain closed on security considerations,” he said.

The facilities reopened on Monday, but Grossi decided not to let the inspectors return until Tuesday, promising that escalating tensions between Israel and Iran have “not had an impact on our inspection activity.”

“I decided to not let the inspectors return until we see that the situation is completely calm,” he added, while calling for “extreme restraint.”

Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel overnight from Saturday into Sunday morning in what marked its first direct attack on Israeli territory.

Israeli air defense systems intercept missiles fired from Iran, in central Israel, April 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Tomer Neuberg)

The barrage came in retaliation for an alleged Israeli airstrike on what Tehran said was an Iranian consular building in Damascus that killed seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps soldiers, including two generals.

Israel and its allies shot down the vast majority of the drones and missiles and the attack caused only one injury, but concerns about a potential Israeli reprisal have nevertheless stoked fears of all-out regional war.

For years, Israel has accused Iran of wanting to acquire an atomic bomb, and has said that it will not allow it to happen. Tehran denies the accusations.

Iran has blamed Israel for the deaths of many of those involved in its nuclear program, including its top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was assassinated with a remote-controlled machine gun while traveling in a car outside Tehran in 2020.

Military personnel stand near the flag-draped coffin of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a scientist who was killed on Friday, during a funeral ceremony in Tehran, Iran, November 30, 2020. (Iranian Defense Ministry via AP)

Also in 2010, a sophisticated cyberattack using the Stuxnet virus, attributed by Tehran to Israel and the United States, led to a series of breakdowns in Iranian centrifuges used for uranium enrichment.

In 1981, Israel bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, despite opposition from Washington. And in 2018, it admitted to having launched a top-secret air raid against a reactor in Syria 11 years prior.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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