Timeline: Israeli Attacks on Iran

Since 2010, Israel has allegedly conducted at least two dozen operations – including assassinations, drone strikes and cyberattacks – on Iran. Most of the targets were connected to Tehran’s controversial nuclear program, which Israel considers an existential threat. In 2022, however, two facilities that were part of Iran’s increasingly advanced drone program were hit by drones. Iran has also reportedly targeted military commanders responsible operations abroad. The following is a timeline of attacks on Iran allegedly carried out by Israel since 2010.

 

Jan. 12, 2010: Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a physics professor at Tehran University, was killed by a remote-controlled bomb planted on a motorcycle. The device detonated as he left home in northern Tehran to go to work. The government described Ali Mohammadi as a nuclear scientist but said he did not work for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. State media blamed Israel and the United States for the assassination.

June 2010: The Stuxnet computer virus, allegedly developed by Israel and the United States, was detected in computers at the Bushehr nuclear power plant. The virus then spread to other facilities. By September, 30,000 computers across at least 14 facilities—including the Natanz facility—were reportedly infected. The virus caused the engines in IR-1 centrifuges to increase their speed and eventually explode. At least 1,000 centrifuges of the 9,000 installed at Natanz were destroyed, the Institute for Science and International Security estimated. After conducting investigations, Iran blamed Israel and the United States for the virus. 

Nov. 29. 2010: Professor Majid Shariari, a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, was killed in his car on his way to work. His wife was wounded in the blast. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said that Shariari was involved in one of the country’s biggest nuclear projects but did not elaborate.Accounts of the assassination varied. A Western intelligence expert said that an explosive was planted on the vehicle beforehand and detonated remotely. Iranian media reported that men on motorbikes attached bombs to cars belonging to Shariari and another scientist, Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, on the same day. Abbasi Davani, an advisor to the Defense Ministry and a professor at Imam Hossein University, and his wife were injured in a separate blast. Local media described Abbasi Davani as one of Iran’s few specialists who could separate isotopes, a key step in producing enriched uranium for nuclear energy or to create fuel for a nuclear weapon. Abbasi Davani was sanctioned by the United Nations in 2007 for involvement in nuclear or ballistic missile research. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blamed the United States and Israel for the attacks.

April 2011: Iran’s cyber defense agency discovered a virus nicknamed “Stars” that was designed to infiltrate and damage its nuclear facilities. The virus mimicked official government files and inflicted “minor damage” on computer systems, according to Gholam Reza Jalali, the head of Iran’s Passive Defense Organization. Iran blamed the United States and Israel.

July 23, 2011: Darioush Rezaeinejad, an electrical engineer working at a national security research facility, was killed by two gunmen on a motorcycle in Tehran. State media initially identified the man as Darious Rezaei, a physics professor. Hours later, state media backtracked and said the victim was Darioush Rezaeinejad, an electronics student. Deputy Interior Minister Safarali Baratloo claimed that he was not involved in the nuclear program. But a foreign government official and a former U.N. nuclear inspector alleged that Rezaeinejad was working on high-voltage switches, parts necessary to start explosions needed to trigger a nuclear warhead. Iran blamed the United States and Israel for the assassination.

Nov. 13, 2011: Iran said it had contained Duqu, the third virus aimed at disrupting Iran’s nuclear program. Duqu used programming code that was also used in the 2010 Stuxnet attack.

Jan. 11, 2012: Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a chemical engineering graduate, was killed after two people on a motorbike placed a bomb on his car in northern Tehran. Roshan and the driver died, and at least two other people at the scene were reportedly injured. Iran identified Ahmadi Roshan as a supervisor at the Natanz Uranium Enrichment facility. It held Israel and the United States responsible for the killing. “The bomb was a magnetic one and the same as the ones previously used for the assassination of the scientists, and the work of the Zionists [Israelis]," deputy Tehran governor Safarali Baratloo claimed.

April 2012: Iran discovered the “Wiper” malware erasing the hard drives of computers owned by the oil ministry and the National Iranian Oil Company. “Wiper” appeared to be similar in design to Duqu and Stuxnet, thought to have been developed by Israel and the United States. Iran blamed the United States and Israel for the attack.

May 9, 2012: Iran announced that a virus dubbed “Flame” had infected government computers and had tried to steal government data. Israel and the United States had deployed the Flame virus to collect intelligence and to prepare for a wider cyberwarfare campaign, The Washington Post reported. In Israel, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon did not confirm the nation’s involvement but acknowledged that Israel would use “all means... to harm the Iranian nuclear system.”

Jan. 31, 2018: A Mossad team raided a warehouse in Tehran that housed a vast archive of Iran’s nuclear program. The agents used torches to cut through 32 safes. The team smuggled some 50,000 pages and 163 compact discs out of the country. On April 30, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that Israel obtained some 100,000 “secret files that prove” Iran had earlier lied about not having a nuclear weapons program. He also alleged that Tehran worked to “expand its nuclear weapons know-how for future use” even after the 2015 nuclear accord. Netanyahu presented maps, charts, photographs, and videos with details about Project Amad to design, produce and test nuclear weapons. Western intelligence had claimed for more than a decade that Iran had a covert nuclear weapons program.

Oct. 28, 2018: The head of Iran’s civil defense agency claimed that it had neutralized a “new generation” of the Stuxnet virus attempting to damage communications infrastructure. Iranian officials blamed Israel for the attack. “Thanks to our vigilant technical teams, it failed,” Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said.

May 9, 2020: A cyberattack hit computers that regulate maritime traffic at Shahid Rajaee port on Iran's southern coast in the Persian Gulf. The disruption created a traffic jam of ships that waited days to dock. Iran acknowledged that it had been hit by a foreign hack. Israel was reportedly behind the cyberattack, although it did not claim responsibility, according to The Washington Post.

July 2, 2020: An explosion caused extensive damage to Iran’s main nuclear enrichment site at Natanz and set the program back months. The blast damaged a factory producing advanced IR-4 and IR-6 centrifuges that could enrich uranium faster than the IR-1 centrifuges allowed under the 2015 nuclear deal. “It’s possible that this incident will slow down the development and expansion of advanced centrifuges,” said Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the AEOI. Israel reportedly planted a bomb in the facility, The New York Times and The Washington Post reported.

Nov. 27, 2020: Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a prominent nuclear scientist, was assassinated in a roadside attack about 40 miles east of Tehran. Western and Israeli intelligence had long suspected that Fakhrizadeh was the father of Iran’s covert nuclear weapons program. He was often compared to J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the American atomic bomb. He kept a low profile for most of his career. His name was not widely known even in Iran until he was sanctioned by the United Nations in 2007 and the United States in 2008. 

Details on the attack varied. Iran’s defense ministry initially reported that several gunmen opened fire on Fakhrizadeh’s car, but Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, later said that  “electronic equipment” triggered by remote control killed the scientist.

Iran blamed the killing on Israel. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned the killing as terrorism. “This cowardice—with serious indications of Israeli role—shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” he tweeted. On November 30, Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told local radio that he did not know who was behind the raid. But a senior U.S. administration official told CNN that Israel was responsible. 

April 11, 2021: An explosion at Natanz hit the power supply for centrifuges and caused damage that could take up to nine months to fully repair, The New York Times reported. Alireza Zakani, head of Parliament’s Research Center, said that “thousands of centrifuges” were destroyed during the blackout. He claimed that 300 pounds of explosives had been smuggled into the facility in equipment that had been sent abroad for repair.

Iran blamed Israel. “The Zionists want to take revenge because of our progress in the way to lift sanctions,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said. “They have publicly said that they will not allow this. But we will take our revenge from the Zionists.”

American and Israeli intelligence officials told The New York Times that Israel played a role in the sabotage. Unnamed intelligence sources told Israeli media that the Mossad was responsible for a cyberattack that caused the blackout.

July 9-10, 2021: Hackers caused chaos at train stations nationwide by posting fake messages about cancellations on display boards. The messages urged passengers to call 64411, the number for a hotline run by the Supreme Leader’s office. On the next day, websites tied to the Ministry of Roads and Urbanization reportedly went down. Iran blamed Israel and the United States.

An Israeli-American cybersecurity company, however, concluded that Indra, a group of hackers who identify as opponents of Iran’s theocratic regime, was most likely responsible. The code used in the attack resembled code in previous attacks claimed by the group in 2019 and 2020.

June 23, 2021: An Israeli quadcopter drone, launched from inside Iran, struck a facility in Karaj for manufacturing centrifuges for the nuclear program. Satellite photos showed damage to the roof and suggested that a fire had broken out. Iran later blamed Israel for the attack.   

Oct. 26, 2021: A cyberattack knocked out the system that allows Iranians to use government-issued cards to purchase fuel at a subsidized rate. The outage impacted all 4,300 gas stations in Iran. Consumers either had to pay the regular price, more than double the subsidized one, or wait for stations to reconnect to the central distribution system. By October 30, some 3,200 out of 4,300 stations had been reconnected to the system. Iran blamed Israel and the United States.

Feb. 14, 2022: Six Israeli quadcopter drones reportedly destroyed hundreds of drones at a base near Kermanshah in western Iran. The base was Iran’s primary manufacturing and storage facility for military drones. Lebanese television station Al Mayadeen, which is linked to Hezbollah and Iran, claimed that the drones were launched from Iraqi Kurdistan. Iran blamed Israel for the attack. 

April 30, 2022: The Israeli press reported that Mossad agents in Iran had earlier kidnapped and interrogated Mansour Rasouli, an agent of the IRGC Qods Force. In a confession aired on Israeli television, Rasouli admitted that he had been directed by the Qods Force to assassinate an Israeli diplomat in Turkey, an American general in Germany, and a Jewish journalist in France. He was reportedly released in Iran after the interrogation. On May 8, Iran International, a London-based television station, broadcast video footage of Rasouli claiming to have been tortured into providing a false confession. 

May 22, 2022: IRGC Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodaei was shot five times outside of his home in Tehran. Two gunmen on motorcycles reportedly opened fire while he sat in his Kia Pride. Khodaei’s role in the IRGC has been disputed. Israeli officials alleged that Khodaei was the deputy commander of Unit 840, an IRGC unit reportedly tasked with kidnapping and assassinating foreigners, including Israeli officials and civilians. Others claimed that Khodaei advised Iran-backed fighters in Syria and coordinated shipments of drone and missile technology to Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Majid Mirahmadi, a member of the Supreme National Security Council, alleged the assassination was “definitely the work of Israel.”

May 25, 2022: Quadcopter suicide drones, laden with explosives and reportedly launched from inside Iran, hit the Parchin military complex 37 miles southeast of Tehran. The drones damaged a building where drones had been developed by the Ministry of Defense. One engineer was killed and another person was injured. IRGC Commander Hossein Salami pledged retaliation against unspecified “enemies”; the attack was similar to others in Iran and Lebanon attributed to Israel.   

May 31 and June 2, 2022: In separate incidents, two scientists – one in Yazd and one in Tehran – reportedly died from poison in their food. Initial reports claimed Ayoub Entezari, an aerospace engineer, worked on missiles and airplane turbines for a military research center in Yazd. Officials later claimed that Entezari worked for a civilian industrial company. Kamran Aghamolaei, a geologist in Tehran, died on June 2. Iranian officials blamed Israel for their deaths, according to The New York Times.