Israel has confirmed that it conducted a military raid in 2007 against what was believed to be a nuclear reactor in Syria. The Israeli government declassified a report detailing the discovery and destruction of the nuclear reactor on March 21 after over a decade of secrecy.
The stealth operation occurred over four hours from September 5 to September 6 in 2007. A total of eight F-15 and F-16 fighter jets bombed a nuclear facility in Deir Al-Zor, Syria, about 450 kilometers north of Damascus. Seventeen tons of explosives were dropped over the nuclear core, completely destroying the reactor.
According to Israeli intelligence at the time, the reactor was constructed in Syria with the help of North Korea and was mere months away from activation. The intelligence predicted that the reactor would be operational by the end of 2007.
Although it was well-known that the strike occurred, it was kept under a gag order by the Israeli government for 11 years that forbade Israeli media from publishing any details about the operation. Israel did not acknowledge the attack at the time so as not to provoke Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad into seeking retaliation.
Since being declassified, the report has made cockpit footage, photographs, and intelligence documents about the airstrike available to the public. This has prompted speculation about the timing of the declassification.
Some analysts consider the declassification to be a warning to Iran that Israel will not allow it to continue developing its nuclear capabilities and a hint that Israel is prepared to strike like this again. Others have pointed out that the action coincides with the release of the memoir of Ehud Olmert, who was Israel’s prime minister at the time of the air strike.
“The message from the attack on the nuclear reactor in 2007 is that the State of Israel will not allow the establishment of capabilities that threaten Israel’s existence. This was our message in 2007, this remains our message today and will continue to be our message in the near and distant future,” said Gadi Eizenkot, the Israeli army’s chief of staff.