Israeli Intelligence Minister: Strike on Syrian Reactor Shows Israel Won't Accept Nuclear Iran

Israel publicly acknowledgement for the first time that its F-16 and F-15 warplanes bombed a partially constructed nuclear facility near Deir al-Zor in 2007

כותרת:	A still frame taken from video material released on March 21, 2018 shows a combination image of what the Israeli military describes is before and after an Israeli air strike on a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor site near Deir al-Zor
\ HANDOUT/ REUTERS

Israel's intelligence minister said that the operation to destroy Syria's nuclear reactor in 2007, which was cleared for publication on Wednesday, shows Israel will not allow "those threatening our existence to have nuclear weapons. Syria then and Iran today."

In a tweet, Yisrael Katz said he saluted then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for destroying the Syrian reactor 11 years ago. "When all accounts are settled, destroying the reactor will stand in Olmert's benefit," he wrote, referencing the fact that Olmert stepped down from his leadership role as part of a corruption scandal for which he went on to serve jail time.

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Israel for the first time confirmed that it bombed a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007. The first public acknowledgement by Israel that its F-16 and F-15 warplanes carried out the September 6, 2007, bombing of the partially constructed Al-Kubar facility near Deir al-Zor was made after military censors lifted a more than 10-year order that had barred Israeli officials from discussing it. 

The strike had already been extensively reported on abroad, and discussed by U.S. officials. Israel, however, kept quiet to avoid provoking Syrian reprisals and a possible regional war. 

How the Syria strike unfolded

The Israeli military released newly declassified operational footage, photographs and intelligence documents about the bombing and detailing the intelligence operation that led up to it. 

Israel concluded that the reactor had been under construction with North Korean help and was months away from activation. Reuters has been unable to immediately verify the Israeli material. 

Israel's decision to go public comes after repeated calls in recent months by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the United States and international community to take tougher action on Syria's ally, Iran. 

Syrian nuclear reactor attack: Step by step

"The motivation of our enemies has grown in recent years, but so too the might of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces)," Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Wednesday. 

"Everyone in the Middle East would do well to internalize this equation," he said. 

The Israeli military described in detail the events leading up to the night of September 5 to September 6, 2007, in which, it said, eight warplanes took off from the Ramon and Hatzerim air bases and flew to Deir al-Zor region, 450 km northwest of Damascus, Syria, and dropped 18 tons of munitions. 

Syria strike timeline

The operation was launched after it received intelligence indicating that "a substantial threat to Israel and the region, in the form of a nuclear reactor, was being built in Syria". 

Reuters contributed background to this story