Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday revealed what he said was a previously unknown Iranian nuclear site, saying it could contain up to 300 tons of nuclear material, and accused the International Atomic Energy Agency of failing to investigate findings that he presented earlier this year about Iran’s nuclear program.
Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly (full text here), Netanyahu also revealed what he said were Hezbollah precision missile sites hidden in Beirut, warned that Israel would act against Iran “whenever and wherever,” praised US President Donald Trump for defunding the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, and attacked the Palestinian Authority for paying monthly salaries to convicted terrorists.
The prime minister said the IAEA, the UN’s nuclear agency, had failed to take any action after he revealed in April a nuclear archive that Israeli spies managed to spirit out of Iran, and so he was now revealing what he said was a “secret atomic warehouse” in the Turquzabad district of Tehran, a few miles from the archive.
Netanyahu claimed the warehouse was used for “storing massive amounts of equipment and material from Iran’s secret weapons program,” which was quickly being moved to other parts of the city.
He claimed some 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of radioactive material had been recently removed from this atomic warehouse and squirreled away around Tehran, endangering the capital’s residents.
The site may contain as much as 300 tons of nuclear-related equipment and material in 15 shipping containers, he added.
He did not specify what nuclear material was contained at the site.
The disclosure came four months after Israel announced the existence of what it said was a “half-ton” of Iranian nuclear documents obtained by Israeli intelligence in the Shourabad neighborhood near Tehran.
Israel said the cache proved that Iranian leaders covered up their nuclear weapons program before signing the nuclear agreement. Iran hasn’t acknowledged the alleged seizure.
Both the archive and warehouse, he said, were proof that Iran had not given up its nuclear program.
“Iran has not abandoned its goal to develop nuclear weapons…. Rest assured that will not happen. What Iran hides, Israel will find,” he added.
He urged IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano, who he called “a good man,” to “do the right thing” and “go and inspect this atomic warehouse immediately — before the Iranians finish cleaning it out. Inspect “right here, right now,” he urged, “and inspect the other sites we told you about… Tell the world the truth about Iran.”
There was no immediate official reaction from Iran, which denies building nuclear weapons.
Iran’s state-run, English-language Press TV channel carried Netanyahu’s remarks live but cut away after he made the allegation about the nuclear warehouse.
Referring to Netanyahu’s statements as “ridiculous,” an Iranian state TV report said the country is committed to nonproliferation and Iran’s nuclear program is under surveillance of the IAEA. The website of state TV briefly reported the Netanyahu accusation and called it an “illusion.”
There was also no reaction from the IAEA, which Netanyahu said had ignored Israeli information on the nuclear sites and more than 100,000 documents on Iran’s nuclear program he revealed earlier this year.
Pulling out more placards, Netanyahu showed the plenum what he said were sites hidden near Beirut’s international airport housing precision missiles for the Hezbollah terror group, an Iranian proxy.
“In Lebanon, Iran is directing Hezbollah to build secret sites to convert inaccurate projectiles into precision guided missiles, missiles that can target deep inside Israel within an accuracy of ten meters,” he said.
He added: “Hezbollah is deliberately using the innocent people of Beirut as human shields. They have placed three of these missile conversion sites alongside Beirut’s international airport.”
“Israel knows what you are doing, Israel knows where you are doing it, and Israel will not let you get away with it,” he said.
Sending a message to “the tyrants of Iran,” he said: “Israel knows what you’re doing, and Israel knows where you’re doing it.” Israel, he vowed, would “never let a regime that calls for our destruction develop nuclear weapons.”
Reasserting longstanding Israeli policy, he promised: “Israel will do whatever it must do to defend itself against Iran’s aggression.”
To that end, he said, “We will continue to act against you in Syria, we will act against you in Lebanon, we will act against you in Iraq, we will act against you whenever and wherever we must act to defend our state and to defend our people.”
Minutes after the speech, the Israel Defense Forces released a video with more information about the Hezbollah missile sites, indicating a coordinated campaign.
Israel’s operations in Syria have been called into doubt in recent days after Moscow blamed the IDF for Syrian air defenses shooting down a Russian spy plane during an Israeli attack on a weapons facility near Latakia.
With the EU continuing to back the Iranian nuclear deal he vociferously opposed, Netanyahu charged that European countries had been “coddling” Iran’s leaders by fulfilling obligations they made under the nuclear accord, and called on them to join in on the reimposed US sanctions after Trump pulled out — a move Netanyahu praised.
“The same week Iran was caught red-handed for trying to murder European citizens, European leaders were laying out the red carpet for President Rouhani, pledging to give them more money,” Netanyahu mocked. “Have these European leaders learned nothing from history? Will they ever wake up?”
Netanyahu praised Trump and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley for the “support they provide to Israel at the United Nations,” receiving a lengthy round of applause in response.
He responded to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s earlier speech in which Abbas branded Israel’s nation-state law a recipe for “apartheid,” calling that “preposterous.”
“Israel’s Arab citizens have exactly the same rights as all other Israeli citizens. But here Israel is shamefully accused of apartheid,” Netanyahu charged. “It’s the same old anti-Semitism with a brand new face. That’s all it is. Once it was the Jewish people who were slandered and held to a different standard. Today it is the Jewish state which is slandered and held to a different standard.”
“Israel is called racist for making Hebrew its national language? This is downright preposterous,” he said, citing more than 50 countries that have crosses or crescents on their flags and “dozens of countries that define themselves as nation-state of their peoples. None of these countries are libeled for celebrating their national identity.”
He also slammed Abbas for paying terror convicts and their families. The US and Israel have both cut funding to the Palestinians over the controversial monthly stipends.
“They more they slay, the more you pay,” Netanyahu addressed the Palestinian leader, “and you condemn Israel’s morality? You call Israel racist? This is not the way to peace. This body should not be applauding the head of a regime that pays terrorists. The UN should condemn such a despicable policy.”
Earlier Thursday, Abbas hailed terror convicts in Israeli prisons as “heroes,” paying tribute to “our hero martyrs and prisoners of war.”
Netanyahu did not make substantial mention of any peace talks with the Palestinians, a day after Trump for the first time declared his support for a two-state solution to the conflict following his meeting with the Israeli premier on the sidelines of the General Assembly.
He did speak more generally of regional and Palestinian peace, however. He said that the Iran deal “has had one positive consequence. By empowering Iran, it brought Israel and many Arab states closer together than ever before, in an intimacy and friendship that I have not seen in my lifetime, and that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.” Israel, he said, “deeply values these new friendships, and I hope the day will soon arrive when Israel will extend a formal peace, beyond Egypt and Jordan, to other Arab nations, including the Palestinians.”
Trump told reporters Wednesday that he believes that two states — Israel and one for the Palestinians — “works best.” He has previously been vague on the topic, suggesting that he would support whatever the parties might agree to, including possibly a one-state resolution, which might see the Palestinian territories become part of Israel.
Later, Trump told a news conference that reaching a two-state solution is “more difficult because it’s a real estate deal” but that ultimately it “works better because you have people governing themselves.”
But, backtracking somewhat, Trump added that he would still support Israel and the Palestinians should they opt for a one-state solution, though he believed that was less likely. “Bottom line: If the Israelis and Palestinians want one-state, that’s OK with me. If they want two states, that’s OK with me. I’m happy if they’re happy.”
Agencies contributed to this report.