By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
JERUSALEM/TEHRAN (Worthy News) – Israel carried out a drone strike targeting a defense compound in Iran, amid concerns about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, according to several sources familiar with the situation.
It came as the country also suffered an earthquake killing three people, while a massive fire at an Iranian oil refinery injured at least one firefighter, authorities said.
Bomb-carrying drones hit the Iranian defense factory in the central city of Isfahan overnight, Iranian authorities confirmed Sunday.
The strike caused some damage at the plant, according to footage monitored by Worthy News, amid heightened regional and international tensions.
Officials familiar with the dialogue between Israel and the United States about the incident said the attack was carried out by Mossad, Israel’s premier intelligence agency.
However, Iran claimed its air defenses brought down one of the drones while the two others exploded above the warehouse, causing “minor damage” to the roof.
The drones hit a target right next to a site belonging to the Iran Space Research Center, which the U.S. has sanctioned for its work on Iran’s ballistic-missile program.
Those missiles could potentially carry nuclear warheads and reach Israel. This weekend’s attack came as the United States and Israel sought new ways to contain Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
However, Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian warned Sunday that “a cowardly drone attack on a military site in central Iran will not impede Iran’s progress on its peaceful nuclear program.”
Israel does not believe Iran’s nuclear program is “peaceful” and has repeatedly made clear it wants to prevent Iran from developing or obtaining nuclear weapons.
Israel’s strike came on the day that a 5.9-magnitude earthquake hit northwestern Iran overnight, killing at least three people and injuring more than 800 in the region near the border with Turkey, state officials said Sunday.
Panicked residents reportedly fled their homes as buildings collapsed and rubble crushed cars, with hundreds seeking shelter from freezing winter conditions in evacuation centers.
More than 20 aftershocks rattled the region, Iranian media reported.
The shallow quake hit the city of Khoy, with a population of around 200,000, in West Azerbaijan province at 9:44 pm local time Saturday, said the Seismological Center of the University of Tehran.
OIL REFINERY FIRE
Also, in northwestern Iran, a massive fire broke out at an oil refinery on Saturday, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported. It was unclear whether the quake was responsible for the fire, which reportedly injured one firefighter.
The refinery is near the city of Tabriz in East Azerbaijan Province. “Right now, 25 fire engines at the site are extinguishing the fire,” said Mohammad Baqer Hanbar, director general of crisis management of East Azerbaijan Governorate, in a published statement.
“So far, there has been one firefighter injured in this incident who suffered from smoke inhalation, and the person is in stable condition,” Fars cited Hanbar as saying.
The firefighting was still raging Sunday as the size and intensity of the fire made it difficult to extinguish,” Fars reported. The cause of the accident is under investigation, officials said.
The incidents added to the ongoing turmoil in the Islamic republic, which has seen massive protests since sparked by the death of Iranian-Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, 22.
Her death in the custody of morality police last September 2022 unleashed years of anger in society over issues ranging from economic misery and perceived discrimination of women and minorities to social and political controls.
Despite domestic and international outrage criticism, Iran handed down dozens of death sentences for protesters.
At least four people have been hanged since the demonstrations started, according to the judiciary, including two protesters this month for allegedly killing a member of the volunteer Basij militia forces.
Rights group Amnesty International said Iranian authorities are seeking the death penalty for at least 26 others in “sham trials designed to intimidate protesters.”
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