For over a decade Israel refused to officially acknowledge taking out the suspected nuclear reactor in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria on the night of September 6, 2007. Although, in October 2007, the IDF indirectly admitted the attack by lifting some censorship on media coverage of the incident, Tel Aviv still continued to censor details of the intended target of the strike.
On Wednesday morning, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) finally confirmed that the operation indeed took place, releasing details and photo evidence of the strike.
“During the night of September 5th and 6th, 2007, the Israeli Air Force destroyed a nuclear facility in its last stages of construction in the Deir ez-Zor region in Syria, 280 miles north-east of Damascus,” the IAF said in a press release. “Four F-16 jets eliminated a nuclear threat not only to Israel, but to the entire region.”
The decision to strike the alleged nuclear research facility was based on intelligence gathered by the Military Intelligence Directorate who had been monitoring the activity at the Syrian site for two years. Their reconnaissance convinced Tel Aviv that “the facility would become active toward the end of 2007,” the IAF said, recalling that this assessment “prompted the IDF to initiate an attack on the facility.”
The attack, which was monitored from the aerial war room by all key political and military officials at the time, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, took about four hours to complete.
“Two fighter jets, F-16I and F-15I left the base at 10:30 pm and flew low to stay undetected. The whole operation took four hours,” the IAF said, boasting that the nuclear facility was “damaged beyond repair.”
While the military acknowledged that Tel Aviv was worried about possible military retaliation by Syria, the operation was recognized as a success. “The operation was deemed a success by the Chief of the General Staff. The nuclear facility was destroyed and an escalation in the region prevented,” the statement said.
Syria denied the existence of a nuclear research facility, and claimed the destroyed complex was a military site under construction. Media reports at the time speculated that it was an undeclared reactor, allegedly being built by North Koreans. In the ensuing years, the nuclear watchdog IAEA managed to determine that the complex bore features resembling a reactor building, and blamed the Syrian government for insufficient transparency which, allegedly, prevented investigators from establishing the truth.
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