Iran blamed Israel for a drone attack on a military factory near the central city of Isfahan, the semi-official ISNA news agency said on Thursday, vowing revenge for what appeared to be the latest episode in a long-running covert war.
In a letter to the UN chief, Iran's UN envoy, Amir Saeid Iravani, said primary investigation suggested Israel was responsible for the attack on Saturday night.
"Iran preserves the right to give a firm response whenever and however it feels necessary," Iravani said in the letter, adding, "This action undertaken by Israel goes against international law” and warrants condemnation.
Iravani called the facility, where according to reports Iran produced advanced weapons, an "industrial complex" belonging to the Defense Ministry in the city.
In his letter, the ambassador referred to various recent statements aired by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Isaac Herzog and outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, and protested their threat to damage Iran's vital infrastructure.
He also called on the Security Council to condemn the "provocative and unjustified" statement of a Ukrainian official regarding the strike on Isfahan, in which he welcomed the attack on Iran’s "vital infrastructure", according to him.
The attack came amid tension between Iran and the West over Tehran's nuclear activity and its supply of arms - including long-range "suicide drones" - for Russia's war in Ukraine, as well as months of anti-government demonstrations at home.
Arch-foe Israel has long said it is willing to strike Iranian targets if diplomacy fails to curb Tehran's nuclear or missile programs, but it has a policy of withholding comment on specific incidents.
Earlier this week, a Saudi TV channel reported that the explosion at the military facility in Isfahan was the result of an attack carried out by the U.S. Air Force and another unnamed country.
However, a few hours later, U.S. intelligence sources reported that the drone attack was carried out by Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad.
Tehran claimed that the attack was foiled and that two of the three attacking drones were shot down. It was also reported that the drone that managed to strike the facility caused only minor damage and no casualties.
The New York Times quoted senior U.S. officials familiar with the details of the dialogue between Washington and Jerusalem about the action as saying that the purpose of the military facility is unclear at this point, and the extent of the damage caused by the attack is also unknown.
However, Isfahan is a major missile research and development hub for the Islamic Republic. The central Iranian city is home to several sites manufacturing medium-range Shahab missiles, which can reach Israel and targets beyond.
The attack came a few weeks after U.S. officials publicly announced Iran was the main supplier of drones to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine. However, the sources stated in the report that they believe the attack in Iran stemmed from Israel's concerns about its own security, and not because of the potential for exporting missiles to Russia.
The attack took place just as U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken began his visit to Israel, his first since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to the premiership after a year-and-a-half interregnum.
The head of the CIA William Burns visited Israel last week, but it is unclear whether the possibility of an attack on Isfahan was discussed during his visit.
Iran has released footage that it claims shows the remains of the "suicide drones" used in the “failed” attack on what it defined as an "ammunition factory" in the central Iranian city.
In the footage, small holes are seen on the roof of what is claimed to be the facility targeted in the attack, and an Iranian reporter spoke with the workers inside the building in a clear attempt to strengthen Tehran's claims that the attack had failed. In the report, the Islamic Republic’s public broadcaster specifically stated that the activity at the facility continues as usual.
U.S. officials rushed to publicly deny Washington’s involvement in the attack Sunday morning. One source confirmed that Israel carried out the attack but did not have details about its target.
Isfahan is home to four small nuclear research facilities operating nuclear reactors supplied by China many years ago. However, the targeted facility on Saturday is located in the city center and does not appear to be related to Tehran’s nuclear program.