Iran accuses Israel of sabotage attack that saw explosions strike natural gas pipeline


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An Israeli sabotage attack on an Iranian natural gas pipeline caused the multiple explosions that struck it a week ago, Iran’s oil minister alleged Wednesday, further raising tensions between the regional archenemies amid Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The comments by Iran’s Oil Minister Javad Owji come as Israel has been blamed for a series of attacks targeting Tehran’s nuclear program.

The “explosion of the gas pipeline was an Israeli plot,” Owji said, according to Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency. “The enemy intended to disturb gas service in the provinces and put people’s gas distribution at risk.”

He added: “The evil action and plot by the enemy was properly managed.” Owji provided no evidence to support his claims.

Israel has not acknowledged carrying out the attack, though it rarely claims its espionage missions abroad. The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a longtime foe of Iran, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The blasts on Feb. 14 hit a natural gas pipeline running from Iran’s western Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province up north to cities on the Caspian Sea. The roughly 1,270-kilometer (790-mile) pipeline begins in Asaluyeh, a hub for Iran’s offshore South Pars gas field.

Owji earlier compared the attack to a series of mysterious and unclaimed assaults on gas pipelines in 2011 — including around the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Tehran marked the 45th anniversary of the revolution just days before the pipeline blasts.

Israel has carried out attacks in Iran that have predominantly targeted its nuclear program. Last week, the head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog warned that Iran is “not entirely transparent” regarding its atomic program, particularly after an official who once led Tehran’s program announced the Islamic Republic has all the pieces for a weapon “in our hands.”

Tensions over Iran’s nuclear program comes as groups that Tehran is arming in the region — Lebanon’s militant group Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels — have launched attacks targeting Israel over the war in Gaza. The Houthis continue to attack commercial shipping in the region, sparking repeated airstrikes from the United States and the United Kingdom.

Despite a month of U.S.-led airstrikes, the Houthi rebels remain capable of launching significant attacks. This week, they seriously damaged a ship in a crucial strait and downed an American drone worth tens of millions of dollars.

Meanwhile Wednesday, a suspected Israeli strike hit a neighborhood in Syria’s capital, Damascus, where other likely Israeli strikes have targeted members of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

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Associated Press writer Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.



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