DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Hackers targeting the website of an Israeli newspaper early Monday replaced the content with an image threatening a site linked to Israel’s unexplained nuclear weapons program on the anniversary of the killing of a prominent Iranian general.
While no group claimed immediate responsibility, the image posted on the Jerusalem Post’s website included a rocket that landed from a fist with a ring long associated with Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian general killed by a US drone attack in Iraq two years ago Monday.
The image contained an exploding target of a recent Iranian military drill designed to resemble the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center near the city of Dimona. The facility is already home to decades-old underground laboratories that are reprocessing the reactor’s pierced rods to obtain weapons-grade plutonium for Israel’s nuclear bomb program.
Under its policy of nuclear ambiguity, Israel neither confirms nor denies having nuclear weapons.
In a tweet, the Jerusalem Post acknowledged the purpose of being hackers.
“We are aware of the apparent hacking of our website, in addition to a direct threat to Israel,” the English-language newspaper wrote. “We are working to resolve the issue and thank readers for your patience and understanding.”
There was no immediate response from the Israeli government. The hack comes after Israel’s former military intelligence chief publicly acknowledged in late December that his country was involved in Soleimani’s assassination.
Iran also did not immediately recognize the hack early Monday. However, in recent days the country has strengthened its reservations about the assassinated Revolutionary Guard general. On Monday, memorial services were scheduled to mark his death.
As the head of the Quds, or Jerusalem, Force of the Revolutionary Guard, Soleimani led all his expeditionary forces and often commuted between Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. Quds Force members have pledged in Syria’s long war to support President Bashar Assad, as well as in Iraq during the 2003 US invasion that overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein, a longtime enemy of Tehran.
Soleimani gained prominence by advising troops fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria on behalf of the fighting Assad.
U.S. officials say the guard under Soleimani has taught Iraqi militants how to produce and use especially deadly mountain bombs against U.S. troops following the invasion of Iraq. Iran has refused. Soleimani himself remains popular among many Iranians, who see him as a hero fighting Iran’s enemies abroad.
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Jon Gambrell, Associated Press