Flame rise from the explosion of a natural gas pipeline outside the city of Boroujen in the Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province in western Iran, February 14, 2024

Israel was responsible for explosions on two of Iran’s major natural gas pipelines this week, according to “two Western officials and a military strategist affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps”.

The strikes, at 1 a.m. on Wednesday, disrupted the flow of heat and cooking gas to millions of Iranians and affected about 15% of Iran’s daily natural gas production.

For almost 15 years, Israel has attacked Iran’s nuclear and military sites, assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists and commanders, and carried out cyber-warfare on nuclear facilities, oil installations, and other infrastructure. However, this would be the first known direct Israeli assault on Iran’s pipelines.

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Wednesday’s damage to the gas pipelines in the Fars and Chahar Mahal Bakhtiari provinces disrupted service to residential homes, government buildings, and major factories in at least five of Iran’s 31 provinces. The south-to-north pipelines — each running for about 1,200 km (740 miles) and carrying 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day — supply Iran’s capital Tehran and cities such as Isfahan and Astara, close to the the border in northern Iran with Azerbaijan.

The Islamic Republic, the third largest producer of natural gas in the world, has about 40,000 km (24,850 miles) of natural gas pipelines, most of them underground.

Iran oil minister Javad Owji told State media, “The enemy’s plan was to completely disrupt the flow of gas in winter to several main cities and provinces in our country.”

Owji did not blame Israel, labelling the explosions “sabotage and terrorist attacks”.

Western officials and the Iranian military strategist noted that the two pipelines were hit in multiple locations at the same time. Such an attack required deep knowledge of Iran’s infrastructure and careful coordination.

One Western official said the significance of the strike was largely symbolic. Repair of the pipelines would be fairly easy. However, Israel is warning of the potential for further damage, amid its military operations in Gaza and skirmishes with Iran’s ally Hezbollah across the Israeli-Lebanese border.

The Western officials said Israel added to its demonstration with an explosion inside a chemical factory on the outskirts of Tehran on Thursday. A local official had declared that the blast was an accident in the factory’s fuel tank.