An explosion reportedly damaged a power plant in the Iranian city of Ahvaz on Saturday, the latest in a series of mysterious blasts in the country that prompted Iran to issue a warning to Israel and the US earlier this week.
Persian and Arabic media reported an explosion and fire at the Zargan power plant in Ahvaz in Iran’s southwest, near the Persian Gulf and the Iraqi border.
Videos posted online showed a column of smoke at the facility and workers filing past a fire truck.
Iran’s IRNA news agency later reported that the fire at the plant had been brought under control. It said the blaze was ignited when a transformer exploded.
Mohammad Hafezi, the power plant’s health and safety manager, told IRNA the cause of the fire was under investigation.
A few hours later on Saturday, IRNA said a chlorine gas leak at a petrochemical center in southeast Iran sickened 70 workers.
Most of the workers at the Karun petrochemical center in the city of Mahshahr in southeast Khuzestan province were released after undergoing medical treatment.
The two incidents came after an explosion damaged Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility on Thursday, and last week 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.
An Israeli TV report Friday night said that Israel was bracing for a possible Iranian retaliation as officials in Tehran suggested on Friday that the mystery fire and explosion at Natanz could have been caused by an Israeli cyberattack.
The report said the attack “destroyed” a laboratory where Iran was developing advanced centrifuges for faster uranium enrichment, and a Kuwaiti report quoted an unnamed source assessing that the strike set back the Iranian nuclear program by two months.
Three Iranian officials told the Reuters news agency they believed the incident at the Natanz enrichment facility early Thursday was the result of a cyberattack, and two of them said Israel could have been behind it, but offered no evidence.
Asked about reports of the incident at a press conference Thursday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brushed aside the question: “I don’t address these issues,” he said.
But Amos Yadlin, the head of the Institute for National Security Studies, and a former head of IDF military intelligence, tweeted Friday that, “According to foreign sources, it appears that the prime minister focused this week on Iran rather than [his plan for West Bank] annexation. This is the policy I’ve been recommending in the last few weeks.”
Added Yadlin: “If Israel is accused by official sources then we need to be operationally prepared for the possibility of an Iranian reaction (through cyber, firing missiles from Syria or a terror attack overseas).”
Officially, Iran reported an “accident” occurred Thursday at the Natanz nuclear complex in central Iran, saying there were no casualties or radioactive pollution. But top generals also said Iran would respond if the incident turned out to be a cyberattack.