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Kurds officially deny pro-Iran media claim of attack on Mossad base in Iraq

Tuesday night reports of fatal incident — seen as highly implausible and largely ignored in Israeli media — are false, says Kurdish Regional Government

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

A fighter loyal to the Iraqi federal government is seen in the region of Altun Kupri, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Irbil, the capital of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, on October 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Marwan Ibrahim)
A fighter loyal to the Iraqi federal government is seen in the region of Altun Kupri, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Irbil, the capital of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, on October 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Marwan Ibrahim)

The Kurdistan Regional Government released an official statement Wednesday denying reports in pro-Iranian media that “unknown forces” had attacked a Mossad facility and killed Israelis in northern Iraq.

“We can confirm that news reports about an attack on an Israeli intelligence facility in the region are false,” the KRG statement said.

The KRG added that no Mossad base exists in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

The report, which first appeared in the Iraqi outlet Sabereen News — affiliated with Iran-backed militias in the country — claimed the attack had left a number of Israelis dead and injured.

Security sources cited in the report did not provide any details on the attack, raising widespread doubts about its authenticity. Widely regarded as implausible, the claim has been largely ignored in Israeli media.

Mossad chief Yossi Cohen at a Tel Aviv University cyber conference on June 24, 2019. (Flash90)

A senior Kurdish journalist told The Times of Israel that the outlets that first reported the attack are not credible.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on the reports.

The reports emerged amid spiraling tensions with Iran, including at sea. In the third attack of its kind in months, the MV Hyperion Ray — which sails under the Bahamas flag — reportedly came under missile fire on Tuesday near the emirate of Fujairah on the coast of the Gulf of Oman. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the strike, but officials in Jerusalem believe Iran is responsible, according to Hebrew media reports.

The New York Times cited an Israeli security official saying no retaliatory attack was planned on an Iranian vessel since the Jewish state wants to deescalate the situation in the Persian Gulf.

Hebrew media said the missile strike caused no injuries and very minor damage. The ship was en route to the UAE from Kuwait, according to Channel 12 news.

A spokesperson for the Hyperion Ray said there was no damage and the ship continued on its route.

FILE: The Israeli-owned cargo ship MV Hyperion Ray departing Koper Port in Slovenia, October 2020. (Screenshot: YouTube)

The reported strike came as Iran threatened to avenge an attack on its Natanz nuclear site that it blames on Israel.

Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility was hit by a suspected attack on Sunday. Israel is widely believed to have carried out the assault that damaged centrifuges, though it has not claimed it.

A senior Iranian official confirmed that the blast destroyed or damaged thousands of centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Alireza Zakani, the hardline head of the Iranian parliament’s research center, referred to “several thousand centrifuges damaged and destroyed” in a state TV interview. However, no other official has offered that figure and no images of the aftermath have been released.

Tehran and Jerusalem are also engaged in a maritime shadow war, with both sides blaming the other for explosions on vessels, marking a new front in the conflict that was previously carried out on land, by air, and with alleged espionage and cyberattacks.

The MV Saviz, an Iranian cargo ship said to serve as a floating base for Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard forces off the coast of Yemen, was struck by an explosion last Tuesday, likely from a limpet mine.

In recent months, at least two Israeli-owned cargo ships have been damaged in alleged Iranian attacks, one in the Gulf of Oman and the other as it was sailing to India.

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