Iran claims an “Israeli-linked” sabotage team it recently arrested had planned to destroy a sensitive facility in the central Iranian province of Esfahan.

According to a Sunday report by Nour News, a website affiliated with the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Ali Shamkhani, “These individuals (Mossad-linked agents) had identified a sensitive center in Esfahan, planted strong explosives there, and only a few hours were left until the explosion” when they were arrested.

The report added that the members of the network were trained in an African country for months and had simulated the planned operation several times.

It claimed that Iran’s security forces were monitoring the team even before it arrived in Iran and all its members and contacts both inside and outside the country were identified by the Intelligence Ministry several months before they entered the country.

The report did not disclose the name of the site, but Esfahan is home to Iran’s largest multi-purpose nuclear research complex with about 3,000 scientists. It also operates a conversion facility, a fuel production plant, a zirconium cladding plant, and four small nuclear research reactors -- all supplied by China – as well as other facilities and laboratories. Moreover, it could also mean the all-important Natanz uranium enrichment facility, which is located in the province of Esfahan.

Natanz was the target of two major sabotage acts in the past two years- in July 2020 and April 2021, both ascribed to Israeli intelligence.

In January, Iran told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that it would move production of crucial nuclear components from a plant in Karaj to a facility in Esfahan. The Karaj TESA plant was producing parts for uranium enrichment machines or centrifuges.

IAEA nuclear facility monitoring device shown in December 2021

In April, Tehran said that before the 2015 nuclear deal is revived it will not give the IAEA access to data from cameras at the new centrifuge parts plant in Esfahan.

In a short announcement from the Intelligence Ministry on Saturday, July 23, Iran claimed that “a network from the spy agency of the Zionist regime who were sent to the country for terrorist operations” were identified and arrested.

"This network's members were in contact with (Israel's) Mossad spy agency through a neighboring country and entered Iran from (Iraq's) Kurdistan region with advanced equipment and strong explosives," the ministry said.

Since March, Iran has at least three times made similar claims without presenting any evidence or information about what investigators discovered from the persons allegedly detained.

The intelligence ministry’s announcement came two days after Iran International in an exclusive report on July 21 said that Israel’s Mossad had captured a senior Revolutionary Guard official on Iranian soil and interrogated him about weapons shipments to Iran’s proxies in the region. After the interrogation the man was released.

Since mid-2020 a series of high-profile mysterious attacks have hit Iran’s nuclear and military installations around the country, widely believed to have been Israeli sabotage operations. In November 2020, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a key figure in Iran’s controversial nuclear program was assassinated in a complex operation on the outskirts of Tehran. His killing resembled more a Hollywood thriller, with a heavy, remotely controlled gun mounted in the back of a pickup truck that fired on Fakhrizadeh’s car on a highway.

In May, several IRGC officials were killed or died in suspicious circumstances, prompting Tehran to blame Israel, which has never officially taken credit for these operations.

In June, a major reshuffling of IRGC intelligence and counter-intelligence leadership took place, widely attributed to reported Israeli infiltration and the inability of Iran’s security bodies to deal with the situation.

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