Private Israeli intelligence group The Intel Lab released satellite photos on Saturday of what it said is damage from a reported drone attack on an Iranian nuclear facility last month.
Iran claimed to have foiled the June 23 attack on the site in Karaj, but Israeli media reported that the facility — said to have been used for assembling centrifuges for uranium enrichment — was damaged in the strike.
The drone attack reportedly hit the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company, or TESA, in the city of Karaj, northwest of Tehran. The TESA factory was tasked with replacing the damaged centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear site and also produces more advanced centrifuges that can more quickly enrich uranium, according to a New York Times report last month.
Iran has not identified who it believes was responsible for the drone strike. The country has accused Israel of similar attacks on its nuclear program in the past.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett appeared to hint at Israel’s role during a speech at a graduation ceremony for Israeli Air Force pilots, a day after the strike. “Our enemies know — not from statements, but from actions — that we are much more determined and much more clever, and that we do not hesitate to act when it is needed,” Bennett said in his speech at the IAF’s Hatzerim Air Base, outside Beersheba.
A small quadcopter drone was used in the attack on TESA, the New York Times report said, citing an Iranian source who was not identified. The drone was apparently launched from within Iran, not far from the site, and succeeded in hitting the target, according to the Iranian source familiar with the incident, the report said. However, the source did not know if it caused any damage.
According to Nournews, June 24th, 2021 "Security forces have managed to foil an act of sabotage against one of the buildings of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) in Karaj, Alborz province". Satellite Image from July 1st tells a different story. #Iran #Nuclear #JCPOA pic.twitter.com/QTAqTml4HT
— The Intel Lab (@TheIntelLab) July 3, 2021
The centrifuge production site was reportedly on a list of targets that Israel presented to the Trump administration last year, at the same time as it suggested striking Iran’s uranium enrichment site at Natanz and assassinating Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a scientist who began the country’s military nuclear program decades earlier, an intelligence source told the New York Times.
Fakhrizadeh was killed in November 2020 in an attack Iran blamed on Israel, while a mysterious explosion damaged a large number of centrifuges at the Natanz plant in April 2021. Israel’s former Mossad spy agency chief recently indicated in an interview given after he left office that Israel was behind that incident.
While Iran maintains that the Karaj facility is used for civilian purposes, it has been subjected to United Nations, European Union and American sanctions since at least 2007 for being involved in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The US lifted those sanctions under the 2015 nuclear deal, but then reimposed them in 2018 when Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord.