Reprinted from Honest Reporting.
Iran has reportedly resumed production of advanced centrifuges at a nuclear site that it accused Israel’s Mossad spy agency of blowing up in June. Sources familiar with Iran’s activities say that the Karaj nuclear facility restarted in August, and operations have since ramped up.
The sources expressed concern that Iran could divert advanced centrifuges to undeclared sites in order to move closer to a nuclear weapon. One diplomat suggested that enough parts for 170 centrifuges have been produced since the facility reopened.
Centrifuges are necessary to enrich uranium, which can be used for both civilian applications or — at higher levels of purity — to produce nuclear weapons. Since the renewal of production, Iran has reportedly refused access to the facility by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
In September, the Islamic Republic acknowledged that it had removed surveillance cameras installed by nuclear inspectors. The head of the IAEA said last month that its monitoring program at the facility was “no longer intact.”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, during a visit to an exercise being carried out by the IDF in northern Israel on Tuesday, stressed that the Jewish state would defend itself, no matter what happens in the nuclear talks between Iran and the world powers.
“We are dealing with Iran and its affiliates in Lebanon and Syria. No matter what happens between Iran and the superpowers, and we are certainly concerned about the fact that there is not enough toughness in the face of Iranian violations, Israel will defend itself, on its own,” Bennett said.
During the visit, Defense Minister Benny Gantz added: “We are currently seeing Iran’s policy within Iran in the nuclear context, as well as its strengthening outside Iran, and its influence in Syria and Lebanon. The world must act against Iran and Israel must continue to do what it needs in every front in general and in the northern front in particular.”
Relatedly, local media has reported that Iran and its elite Quds Force appear to be behind a recent attempted killing of an Israeli in Colombia. Initially, it was reported that the assassination attempt had been plotted by the Lebanon-based proxy of Tehran, Hezbollah.
The Colombia incident is the latest in a long series of attempted assassinations of Israeli businesspeople in retaliation for the targeted killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh last November.
An Israeli woman being held by Turkey on suspicion of espionage has protested the charges against her in a conversation with her lawyer, stressing that she is a bus driver who has appeared in company commercials and had no connection to spying.
Natali Oknin and her husband Mordy, both drivers for Israel’s Egged bus company, were detained in Istanbul last week for photographing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s palace. The couple insists they did not know it was illegal to photograph the palace. The couple’s Israeli lawyer, Nir Yaslovizh, met with Natali for the first time on Tuesday.
“Do they know I was in a commercial for Egged? Do they think a spy would be in a commercial for Egged? What are they even talking about?” she reportedly told her lawyer.
Yaslovizh said he filed an appeal against the couple’s remand into custody for 20 days. A Turkish court remanded their detention on Friday, surprising Israeli authorities, who expected the couple to be quickly deported. The couple’s lawyer said a ruling in the case was expected in the next 7-10 days.
In the first public comment by a top Turkish official on the affair, Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu on Tuesday claimed that the Oknins had “focused” on Erdogan’s residence while photographing it and “marked it.” He told reporters that prosecutors believe the Israelis committed “what can be called diplomatic and military espionage,” but that the court will decide.
Jerusalem has rejected the allegation that the Oknins are Israeli spies.
Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar reportedly met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, to coordinate efforts by Israel and the PA to combat the growing influence of Hamas in the West Bank and the terrorist organization’s destabilizing moves in Gaza. Bar also visited Egypt on Sunday for the first time since being named to the position last month, for a meeting with Intelligence Chief Abbas Kamel.
Bar’s visit came approximately two months after a similar visit by Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Bar’s meetings in Cairo, and his and Gantz’s Ramallah meetings, are part of the government’s policy to actively strengthen the PA and weaken Hamas.
Bar, 55, is married and has three children. He holds a university degree in political science and philosophy from Tel Aviv University, and a master’s degree in public management from Harvard University. In 2011, Bar was appointed head of the Shin Bet’s operations, and in 2016 was promoted to head Shin Bet headquarters, the No. 3 post, responsible for force buildup. In 2018, he became deputy chief of the agency.
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