New Delhi: Israel for the first time confirmed that it had attacked a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007 and that the strike removed a major threat to Israel and the region.
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.
Shortly before midnight, four F-15 and four F-16 aircraft took off from the Ramat David Airbase in northern Israel and targeted an isolated square-shaped building in a desert in northeastern Syria. They flew north along the Mediterranean Sea and then turned east on the borderline between Syria and Turkey.
Between 12:40am and 12:53am, the pilots repeated the codename, Arizona, before 24 tons of ammunition was dropped on Al-Kibar, a nuclear reactor that was secretly built by Syrian President Bashar Assad in the Deir ez-Zor area with support from North Korea.
For two years, officials in the Military Intelligence Directorate had been monitoring the Syrian nuclear project. Their intelligence suggested that the facility would become active toward the end of 2007, which prompted the IDF to initiate an attack on the facility.
Israeli intelligence agency Mossad received information and photographs in 2006 which clearly indicated that Syria was planning to go nuclear. About 10 images from inside the building indicated it was a nuclear plutonium reactor. The pictures also showed North Korean workers, the facility appeared identical to the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, which had been built by North Korea in previous decades.
The Israeli Air Force had very little time to prepare the attack and account for possible contingencies, such as retaliation by the Syrian forces. Once the attack plan was ready, however, it was possible to execute it within 12 hours from the moment the order was to be given.
Shortly after midnight, the Prime Minister, Defense Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief of the General Staff, Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Head of the Military Intelligence Directorate and Head of the Operations Directorate assembled in the aerial war room.
From there, they attentively followed all aircraft’s aerial locations and the communication systems. Two different groups of aircraft including the F-16I and the F-15I left the base at 10:30 pm and flew low to stay undetected. The whole operation took four hours.
The Military Intelligence Directorate estimated that the nuclear facility was damaged beyond repair. As the IDF was preparing for retaliation, it decided that information about the operation shouldn’t be disclosed to the general public at the time. 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.
“Only a few years later, ISIS captured the Deir ez-Zor region. One could only imagine how much havoc they could have wreaked with a nuclear facility in their hands,” stated the release.
After the attack Israel refused to take official responsibility for the operation, until the Israeli Military decided this week to clear it for publication.
(With inputs from IDF)