Israel admits striking Syrian 'nuclear facility' in 2007

Israeli pilot who took part in attack on Syrian nuclear reactor

The Israeli military on Wednesday confirmed that it was behind an airstrike in Syria in 2007 that destroyed what it had believed to be a nuclear reactor.

"I don't think anyone needed the censorship approval to know that Israel was behind the attack on the reactor or to think that Israel is not determined to strike Iranian or Hezbollah forces", Dr. Ronen Bergman, a senior correspondent for Military and Intelligence Affairs for the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, told reporters Wednesday.

Israel was widely believed to have been behind the September 6, 2007 attack, but had never admitted it and censored media reports.

For over 10 years, Israeli officials have merely "winked" when asked about the operation.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said in the past that the site was "very likely" to have been a nuclear reactor.

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The US said the gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor was built with assistance from North Korea, the only other country to have built such a plant in decades. Syria is a signatory to the 1970 non-proliferation treaty.

Earlier Wednesday, the Israeli army admitted that its warplanes had struck the facility - located in Syria's Deir al-Zour desert - on September 5 and 6 of 2007. It may be because former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who ordered the strike, has a memoir coming out soon.

Israel said in its new disclosures that secrecy surrounding the strike was necessary due to the sensitive security situation.

Israel's Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, who served as commander of the Northern Command during the operation, said: "The lesson from the 2007 attack on the reactor is that Israel will not accept the establishment of a capability that constitutes an existential threat to Israel".

In 2017, Syria's Permanent Representative at the UN Bashar al-Ja'afari lashed out at the Security Council and the IAEA for their failure to denounce Israel's blatant military attack in 2007, noting that Israel refused to cooperate with the IAEA in investigating the possible contamination caused by the Israeli rockets and the materials used to destroy the site.

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There has been a sharp hike in Israeli acts of aggression against Syria since 2011, when the Arab country plunged into a foreign-backed crisis targeting the government in Damascus.

"The message is: When Israel is left alone, it will react as it reacted and used force 11 years ago and destroyed the North Korean facility", added Bergman.

Eisenkot spoke of the "message" of the 2007 strike, while making reference to a 1981 Israeli raid against a nuclear reactor in Iraq.

Syria and Israel have fought in repeated wars since the Jewish state's founding in 1948.

"That's the message from '81, that's the message from 2007 and that's our future message to our enemies".

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