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Iran Working on 1,000 Centrifuges at New Underground Site, ‘Weeks Away’ From Material for Bomb, Israel Says

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Illustrative: A number of new generation Iranian centrifuges are seen on display during Iran’s National Nuclear Energy Day in Tehran, Iran April 10, 2021. Iranian Presidency Office/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout

Iran is seeking to finish the production and installation of 1,000 advanced IR6 centrifuges, including at a new facility being built at an underground site near Natanz, Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday.

“Iran continues to accumulate irreversible knowledge and experience in the development, research, production and operation of advanced centrifuges,” Gantz stated. “It stands just a few weeks away from accumulating fissile material that will be sufficient for a first bomb.”

Gantz warned that Iran holds 60 kg of 60 percent enriched uranium, produces metallic uranium at an enrichment level of 20 percent, and is preventing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from accessing its production facilities.

“The amount of long-term strategic weapons held by Iran has increased significantly in the past year,” Gantz cautioned. “The price of stopping Iran is now lower than it will be in a year.”

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Gantz’s warning comes as indirect talks between Iran, the US and European officials to revive the 2015 nuclear deal have stalled since March, mainly over Tehran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the US list of designated terrorist organizations. On Friday, the EU’s foreign policy chief indicated that “enough progress” has been made to relaunch talks on renewing the deal, which would provide economic sanctions relief in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.

Commenting on Tehran’s efforts to transfer weapons to its proxies in the region, Gantz noted that the quantity of strategic weapons in the hands of Iranian allies has increased significantly over the past year.

“Iranian proxies are attacking oil reserves, airports and civilian facilities via its Quds Force,” he remarked. “It is developing operational systems throughout the region, equipped with accurate capabilities including cruise missiles, surface-to-surface missiles and UAVs, capable of reaching thousands of kilometers.”

Gantz disclosed that in February, two UAVs were launched by Iran towards Israel and intercepted in Iraq. The pair of drones launched from Iranian territory were on their way to deliver weapons to terrorist organizations in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip.

According to the defense minister, there are hundreds of such weapons in Iraq and dozens held by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.

“In Syria, too, attempts continue to be made to transfer and produce accurate weapons,” Gantz said. “Israel will continue to block the transfer and production of Iranian precision weapons in Syria in order to protect its citizens.”

The IDF Tuesday reported that overnight, soldiers identified and downed a drone belonging to the Hezbollah terrorist group that crossed from Lebanon into Israeli airspace.

Also addressing the recent flare-up in terror attacks in Israel, Gantz called on world and regional leaders to condemn incitement to terrorism.

“We are facing a wave of terror based on a series of attacks that take advantage of the sensitive situation in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, where Israel maintains freedom of worship,” he said. “These attacks are connected to each other as they are based on incitement that is spread by terror organizations in the region.”

During a visit Tuesday to the Ephraim Brigade in the West Bank with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett declared that Israel will “strike at the terrorists wherever they are with every kind of weaponry.”

“The Israeli government provides full backing and freedom of action to IDF, police and Border Police forces to catch and hit terrorists wherever in Jerusalem, West Bank, or the rest of the country” Bennett said. “Whoever raises a hand to an Israeli civilian or IDF soldier — will pay the price.”

“We will not rest until we overcome terrorism,” he continued.

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