Bombs and Viruses: The Dark History of Israeli Attacks on Iranian Soil - Latest Global News

Bombs and Viruses: The Dark History of Israeli Attacks on Iranian Soil

From cyberattacks and assassinations to drone strikes, Israel-linked attacks have targeted Iran and its nuclear program for years.

Israeli leaders have signaled they are weighing their options on how to respond to Iran’s attack early Sunday morning, when Tehran attacked its arch-enemy with more than 300 missiles and drones.

The Iranian attack, which followed an Israeli attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, last week and killed 13 people, was historic: It was the first time Tehran had directly attacked Israeli soil despite decades of hostility. Until Sunday, many of Iran’s allies in the so-called Axis of Resistance – notably the Palestinian group Hamas, the Lebanese group Hezbollah, the Yemeni Houthis and armed groups in Iraq and Syria – were firing rockets and drones at Israel.

But if Israel struck back militarily in Iran, it wouldn’t be the first time. Far from it.

For years, Israel has focused primarily on one target in Iran: the country’s nuclear program. Israel has long accused Iran of secretly building a nuclear bomb that could endanger its existence – and has spoken publicly and frequently about its diplomatic and intelligence efforts to nullify those alleged efforts. Iran denies having a military nuclear program but argues that it has the right to access civilian nuclear energy.

As Israel prepares its response, here is a look at the range of attacks in Iran – from drone strikes and cyberattacks to assassinations of scientists and theft of secrets – that Israel has either accepted it was behind or was behind Staging is accused.

Assassinations of Iranian scientists

  • January 2010: A physics professor at Tehran University, Masoud Ali-Mohammadi, was killed by a remote-controlled bomb on his motorcycle. Iranian state media claimed that the US and Israel were behind the attack. The Iranian government described Ali-Mohammadi as a nuclear scientist.
  • November 2010: Majid Shahriari, a professor at the Faculty of Nuclear Engineering at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, died in a car explosion on his way to work. His wife was also injured. The then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blamed the USA and Israel for the attacks.
  • January 2012: Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a chemical engineering graduate, was killed in Tehran by a bomb planted on his car by a motorcyclist. Iran blamed Israel and the United States for the attack and said Ahmadi Roshan was a nuclear scientist who headed a department at Iran’s main uranium enrichment facility in the city of Natanz.
  • November 2020:Noted nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in a road attack outside Tehran. Western and Israeli intelligence services have long suspected that Fakhrizadeh was the father of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. He was sanctioned by the United Nations in 2007 and by the United States in 2008.
  • May 2022: Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was shot five times outside his home in Tehran. Majid Mirahmadi, a member of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, claimed the assassination was “definitely the work of Israel.”

Israel’s cyberattacks on Iran

  • June 2010:The Stuxnet virus was found in computers at the nuclear power plant in the Iranian city of Bushehr and spread from there to other facilities. As of September 2010, up to 30,000 computers in at least 14 facilities were affected. According to an estimate by the Institute for Science and International Security, at least 1,000 of 9,000 centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz enrichment facility were destroyed. After investigations, Iran blamed Israel and the US for the virus attack.
  • April 2011: A virus called “Stars” has been discovered by Iran’s cyber defense agency and claims the malware is designed to infiltrate and damage Iran’s nuclear facilities. Gholamreza Jalali, head of Iran’s Passive Defense Organization, said the virus mimicked official government files and caused “minor damage” to computer systems. Iran blamed Israel and the US for this.
  • November 2011: Iran said it has discovered a new virus called Duqu, based on Stuxnet. Experts said Duqu was intended to collect data for future cyberattacks. The Iranian government announced that it would check the computers at key nuclear sites. Experts generally believe that the Duqu spyware is linked to Israel.
  • April 2012: Iran blamed the US and Israel for malware called Wiper that wiped the hard drives of computers at the Ministry of Petroleum and the National Iranian Oil Company.
  • May 2012: Iran announced that a virus called Flame attempted to steal government data from government computers. The Washington Post reported that Israel and the United States used it to gather intelligence information. Then-Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon did not confirm the country’s involvement, but acknowledged that Israel would use all means to “harm Iran’s nuclear system.”
  • October 2018: The Iranian government said it had blocked an invasion by a new generation of Stuxnet and blamed Israel for the attack.
  • October 2021: A cyberattack hit the system that allows Iranians to use government-issued cards to purchase fuel at a subsidized price, affecting all 4,300 gas stations in Iran. Consumers either had to pay the regular price, more than double the subsidized price, or wait until the stations were reconnected to the central distribution system. Iran blamed Israel and the US for this.
  • May 2020: A cyberattack hit computers that control maritime traffic at the Shahid Rajaee port on Iran’s southern Gulf coast, leading to a blockade of ships waiting to dock. The Washington Post quoted US officials as saying that Israel was behind the attack, although Israel did not claim responsibility.

Israel’s drone strikes and airstrikes on Iran

  • January 2018: Mossad agents raided a secure facility in Tehran and stole secret nuclear archives. In April 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel had discovered 100,000 “secret files” proving that Iran had lied about never having a nuclear weapons program.
  • February 2022: Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett admitted in an editorial published in the Wall Street Journal in December 2023 that Israel had carried out an attack on an unmanned aerial vehicle and assassinated a senior IRGC commander in February of the previous year.
  • May 2022: Quadcopter suicide drones loaded with explosives hit the Parchin military complex southeast of Tehran, killing an engineer and damaging a building where the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces had been developing drones. IRGC commander Hossein Salami announced retaliatory measures against unspecified “enemies.”
  • January 2023: Several suicide drones struck a military facility in central Isfahan but were foiled and caused no damage. Although Iran did not immediately place blame for the attacks, Iran’s UN envoy Amir Saeid Iravani wrote a letter to the UN chief saying: “Initial investigations found Israel to be responsible.”
  • February 2024: A natural gas pipeline in Iran was attacked. Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji claimed the “gas pipeline explosion was an Israeli conspiracy.”
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