Iran Accuses Israel Of Sabotage Attack After Explosions Strike A Natural Gas Pipeline

Two men look at flames after a natural gas pipeline explodes outside the city of Boroujen in the western Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province, Iran, in early Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. Explosions struck a natural gas pipeline in Iran early Wednesday, with an official blaming the blasts on a "sabotage and terrorist action" in the country as tensions remain high in the Middle East amid Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (Reza Kamali Dehkordi/Fars News Agency via AP)
Two men look at flames after a natural gas pipeline explodes outside the city of Boroujen in the western Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province, Iran, in early Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. Explosions struck a natural gas pipeline in Iran early Wednesday, with an official blaming the blasts on a "sabotage and terrorist action" in the country as tensions remain high in the Middle East amid Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (Reza Kamali Dehkordi/Fars News Agency via AP)
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An Israeli sabotage attack on an Iranian natural gas pipeline last week caused multiple explosions on the line, Iran's oil minister alleged Wednesday, further raising tensions between the regional archenemies against the backdrop of Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The accusations by Iran’s Oil Minister Javad Owji come as Israel has been blamed for a series of attacks targeting Tehran's nuclear program.

The “explosion of the gas pipeline was an Israeli plot,” Owji said, according to Iran's state-run IRNA news agency. “The enemy intended to disturb gas service in the provinces and put people’s gas distribution at risk.”

“The evil action and plot by the enemy was properly managed,” Owji added, without providing any evidence to support his claims.

Israel has not acknowledged carrying out the attack, though it rarely claims its espionage missions abroad. The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a longtime foe of Iran, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Feb. 14 blastshit a natural gas pipeline running from Iran’s western Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province up north to cities on the Caspian Sea. The roughly 1,270-kilometer (790-mile) -long pipeline begins in Asaluyeh, a hub for Iran’s offshore South Pars gas field.

Owji earlier compared the attack to a series of mysterious and unclaimed assaults on gas pipelines in 2011 — including around the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. Tehran marked the 45th anniversary of the revolution just days before the pipeline blasts.

Israel has carried out attacks in Iran that have predominantly targeted its nuclear program. Last week, the head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog warned that Iran is “not entirely transparent” regarding its atomic program, particularly after an official who once led Tehran’s program announced the Islamic Republic has all the pieces for a weapon “in our hands.”

Tensions over Iran’s nuclear program comes as groups that Tehran is arming in the region — Lebanon’s militant group Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels — have launched attacks targeting Israel over the war in Gaza. The Houthis continue to attack commercial shipping in the region, sparking repeated airstrikes from the United States and the United Kingdom.

Despite a month of U.S.-led airstrikes, the Houthi rebels remain capable of launching significant attacks. This week, they seriously damaged a ship in a crucial strait and downed an American drone worth tens of millions of dollars.

On Wednesday, ships in the Red Sea off the Houthi-held port city of Hodeida in Yemen reported seeing an explosion, though all vessels in the area were said to be safe, according to the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations centers. The UKMTO earlier reported heavy drone activity in the area.

The U.S. military's Central Command acknowledged shooting down a Houthi bomb-carrying drone Wednesday during that time. U.S. airstrikes separately targeted seven mobile anti-ship cruise missiles and one mobile anti-ship ballistic missile prepared to target ships in the Red Sea, Central Command said.

The U.S. State Department criticized “the reckless and indiscriminate attacks on civilian cargo ships by the Houthis” that have delayed humanitarian aid including food and medicine bound for Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen. That includes the Sea Champion, a ship carrying corn and other aid to both Aden and Hodeida.

“Contrary to what the Houthis may attempt to claim, their attacks do nothing to help the Palestinians,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement. “Their actions are not bringing a single morsel of assistance or food to the Palestinian people.”

Meanwhile, a suspected Israeli strike killed two people a neighborhood in Syria's capital, Damascus, on Wednesday, an area where other likely Israeli strikes have targeted members of Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

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Associated Press writer Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.