REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM — Israelis are taking a keen interest in the deadly explosion Saturday at a weapons facility in Iran that killed 17 people, including a high-ranking Revolutionary Guard official who worked on Iran's advanced ballistic missiles.
Iran has said the explosion was an accident, not sabotage or an attack. But Israel's top-three dailies put the "mysterious explosion" on their front pages Sunday.
Israel's interest could just be a case of schadenfreude. Jerusalem has made no secret of the fact that it is mulling an air strike against Iran's nuclear program, and Israelis are certainly not sorry to see a setback for an effort that they fear one day could deliver an Iranian nuclear weapon into Israel.
Conspicuously absent from much of the local coverage is the question that nearly everyone here is asking: Did Israel secretly play a role in the explosion?
Israel has previously been accused of sabotage against Iran, including assassinating scientists involved in the nuclear program and helping to unleash the Stuxnet computer virus. Israel never confirmed or denied a role in such efforts, and the government is not commenting on the latest incident.
But Seattle blogger Richard Silverstein says a source he didn't identify told him the explosion was the work of Israel's Mossad, working with Iranian opposition groups, in an effort to relieve the pressure on Israel to launch a full-scale attack.
Israel Radio on Sunday quoted an Arab businessman who recently returned from Iran and said several of his colleagues were leaving Iran out of fear that an Israeli attack might be imminent. In Israel, however, few believe such a strike is on the front-burner.
— Edmund Sanders
Photo: An image taken from amateur video shows smoke rising from an explosion at a Revolutionary Guard ammunition depot outside Bidganeh, a village west of Tehran. Credit: Associated Press