A cyber attack by Israel-backed hackers caused extensive fires and an explosion at the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran last week, Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reported on Friday.
The newspaper cited an unnamed source to claim that Thursday's attack was carried out in retaliation for alleged attempts by Tehran to hack into Israel's water infrastructure in April, an effort that was spoiled by Israeli cyber defences.
The incident is expected to delay Tehran's nuclear enrichment programme by approximately two months.
Al-Jarida further claimed that on 26th June, Israeli F-35 stealth fighter jets bombed a site in Iran's Parchin area, which likely housed a missile production complex.
The Natanz nuclear facility is located nearly 250 km south of Tehran and is spread in an area of about 100,000 square meters. It includes several underground facilities, with 25 feet of concrete to offer protection from enemy airstrikes.
In a statement, Behrouz Kamalvandi, a spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, said that the cause of the fire at Natanz facility had been determined and would be disclosed later.
Kamalvandi admitted that the incident at Natanz had caused major damage to the facility, which could slow down the production of advanced centrifuges used to enrich uranium.
He added that the damaged building would be replaced with a bigger one, equipped with more advanced equipment.
Israel's defence minister Benny Gantz told Israel Radio on Sunday that Israel was not "necessarily" behind every mysterious incident happening in Iran.
"Not every incident that happens in Iran is necessarily connected to us," Gantz said.
"All those systems are complex, they have very high safety constraints and I'm not sure [the Iranians] always know how to maintain them," he added.
Iran's civil defence chief Gholamreza Jalali told state TV last week that Iran would retaliate against any country that carries out cyber attacks on its nuclear sites.
"Responding to cyber attacks is part of the country's defence might," Jalali said.
"If it is proven that our country has been targeted by a cyber attack, we will respond."
Three Iranian officials told Reuters that the Natanz fire was likely caused by a cyber attack, although they did not give any evidence in support of the claim. One of the officials said that Iran's enemies have carried out similar acts in the past.
In 2010, the Stuxnet virus, which is thought to have been jointly developed by the US and Israel, was used to attack the Natanz facility.
During the attack, the Stuxnet caused around 1,000 centrifuges to spin out of control, damaging the equipment and causing a risk to human life.
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