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Israeli official on Iran nuke site blast: ‘We don’t ask a man what he did at night’

Deputy Defense Minister Alon Schuster says Israel will use military means in extreme situations, a day after an explosion near Natanz that Tehran said was an air defense test

Alon Schuster, March 19, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)
Alon Schuster, March 19, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Deputy Defense Minister Alon Schuster on Sunday refrained from directly answering questions about a blast in the vicinity of an Iranian nuclear site a day earlier, only saying he “can’t say” what hit Natanz.

When asked what Israel had to say about the explosion on Saturday near the Natanz site, Schuster said: “We don’t ask a man what he did at night, but we are currently trying to bring about a change in the motivations of the whole world through diplomatic means.”

“Iran is a problem for the whole world, and not just the State of Israel alone,” the Blue and White lawmaker told Radio 103FM when asked about potential Israeli involvement in the explosion.

“We have a duty to be brave and responsible for the fate of our children and grandchildren,” he said. “We have used force against our enemies in the past and we are convinced that in extreme situations, there is a need to act using military means.”

“We hope the whole world will be mobilized for the mission. For that, we’ve allocated a significant sum to increase our readiness. What hit Natanz? I can’t say,” Schuster added.

Israel has reportedly approved a budget of some NIS 5 billion ($1.5 billion) to be used to prepare the military for a potential strike against Iran’s nuclear program. It includes funds for various types of aircraft, intelligence-gathering drones and unique armaments needed for such an attack, which would have to target heavily fortified underground sites.

The Natanz uranium enrichment facility buildings are pictured some 200 miles (322 km) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, on March 30, 2005. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The explosion on Saturday was heard in the skies over the Iranian city of Badroud, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the Natanz nuclear plant.

Several media outlets including Nour News, a website linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said the explosion was not an attack, but rather was caused by a missile as part of a test of air defenses’ response to a potential attack.

Some of the reports said a drone was shot down.

The blast came amid heightened tensions between Iran and world powers, as Tehran continues to race forward with its nuclear enrichment. It came a day after nuclear negotiations were halted in Vienna, with Western countries saying Iran had come to the talks with unrealistic proposals.

Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities in Natanz have seen several reported attacks in recent years that have been attributed to Israel.

A building damaged by a fire, at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, in a photo released on July 2, 2020. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

In April, the underground nuclear facility there experienced a mysterious explosion that damaged some of its centrifuges. Last July, unexplained fires struck the advanced centrifuge assembly plant at Natanz, which authorities later described as sabotage.

The landmark 2015 nuclear accord — initially agreed between Britain, China, France, Germany Iran, Russia and the US — began unraveling in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump pulled out and reimposed sanctions, while Iran began to publicly breach the deal.

Israel has vowed that it will not allow Iran to possess nuclear weapons.

AFP contributed to this report.

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