Explosion reportedly damages factory in Iran, the latest in series of blasts

Source: Explosion reportedly damages factory in Iran, the latest in series of blasts | The Times of Israel

2 said killed and 3 injured at facility in Kahrizak, south of Tehran; local governor says incident caused by human error as oxygen tanks were being filled

Screen capture from video at the scene of a factory explosion south of Tehran, Iran, July 7, 2020. (Mehr news agency)

Screen capture from video at the scene of a factory explosion south of Tehran, Iran, July 7, 2020. (Mehr news agency)

An explosion reportedly damaged a factory south of Tehran in the early hours of Tuesday, the latest in a series of blasts in Iran.

According to Iranian media reports, two people were killed and three were injured in the blast at the Sepahan Bresh factory in the Kahrizak district.

The governor said the explosion also damaged the walls of an adjacent Saipa Press — a car parts company — complex.

Firefighters and paramedics were dispatched to the scene.

The explosion came after a series of mysterious disasters have struck sensitive Iranian sites in recent days, leading to speculation that the earlier incidents may be the result of a sabotage campaign.

An explosion reportedly damaged a power plant in the Iranian city of Ahvaz on Saturday. A few hours later, the Islamic Republic News Agency said a chlorine gas leak at a petrochemical center in southeast Iran sickened 70 workers.

Last week an explosion damaged Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, and a week before that, a large blast was felt in Tehran, apparently caused by an explosion at the Parchin military complex, which defense analysts believe holds an underground tunnel system and missile production facilities.

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

A Middle Eastern intelligence official was quoted Sunday by The New York Times as saying the fire that damaged a building used for producing centrifuges at Natanz was sparked by Israel and was caused by a powerful bomb.

But the unidentified official said Israel was not linked to several other recent mysterious fires in Iran over the past week.

An Israeli TV report Friday night said that Israel was bracing for a possible retaliation from Iran if it determines that Jerusalem was behind the explosion.

Iran admitted Sunday that Natanz incurred “considerable” damage from the fire last week, as satellite pictures appeared to show widespread devastation at the sensitive facility. It had previously sought to downplay the damage from the blaze, though analysts said it had likely destroyed an above-ground lab being used to prepare advanced centrifuges before they were installed underground.

A satellite image from Planet Labs Inc. that has been annotated by experts at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Middlebury Institute of International Studies shows a damaged building after a fire and explosion at Iran’s Natanz nuclear site, on July 3, 2020. (Planet Labs Inc., James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Middlebury Institute of International Studies via AP)

The building was constructed in 2013 for the development of advanced centrifuges, though work was halted there in 2015 under the nuclear deal with world powers, said Iran’s atomic agency spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi earlier this week. When the United States withdrew from the nuclear deal, the work there was renewed, Kamalvandi said.

He said that the fire had damaged “precision and measuring instruments,” and that the center had not been operating at full capacity due to restrictions imposed by Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Iran began experimenting with advanced centrifuge models in the wake of the US unilaterally withdrawing from the deal two years ago.

In this frame grab from Islamic Republic Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, state-run TV, three versions of domestically built centrifuges are shown in a live TV program from Natanz, an Iranian uranium enrichment plant, in Iran, June 6, 2018. (IRIB via AP/File)

Iran long has denied seeking nuclear weapons, though the IAEA previously said Iran had done work in “support of a possible military dimension to its nuclear program” that largely halted in late 2003.

Western concerns over the Iranian atomic program led to sanctions and eventually to Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The US, under President Donald Trump, unilaterally withdrew from the accord in May 2018, leading to a series of escalating attacks between Iran and the US, and to Tehran abandoning the deal’s production limits.

AP contributed to this report.

 

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