Fifteen Years Since Israel Struck Syria Nuke Plant, IDF Release New Intel
i24 News – Fifteen years ago today, Israel carried out airstrikes in eastern Syria targeting a suspected nuclear reactor, in a mission dubbed Operation “Outside the Box.”
The Israeli army’s intelligence division on Tuesday disclosed the fact that five years prior to the air raid – in 2002 – Syria was running a secret project, later revealed to be the nuclear reactor in the Deir ez-Zor region.
On September 6, 2007, the Syrian nuclear reactor was attacked and destroyed by warplanes, as part of a complex intelligence and operational effort which removed the nuclear threat to Israel.
In a special intelligence document from 2002, only recently cleared for publication, intelligence assessments described Syria trying to promote a strategic project.
“It became known that within the framework of the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission, secret projects are underway (or at least were underway) that we were not aware of,” the assessment read.
“The information does not indicate an active military nuclear program underway in Syria, but it does indicate the occupation of those who can contribute to the development of those fields and the program, and raises suspicion of the beginning of the development of such a program.”
“We knew there were some activities that may have been involved with possible atomic energy, but we didn’t know anything more than that in 2002. It took us a few years until we had very tangible proof,” then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert told i24NEWS.
“There were about 50 different photos of the inside of an atomic reactor. There was no doubt about the nature of this and the purpose of this. It was made to build only one thing: an atomic bomb,” Olmert continued.
“We had to destroy this specific target, which was endangering the existence of Israel, and yet at the same time, make it in such a way that it would not trigger a full military confrontation between Israel and Syria.”
The attack reportedly followed Israeli consultations with then-US President George W. Bush’s administration. After realizing that Washington was not willing to bomb the site, Olmert decided to unilaterally strike to prevent Syria from continuing its potential development of nuclear weapons.
Neither Israel nor the US acknowledged the air raids for several months, but the White House and CIA eventually confirmed that American intelligence suspected that the site was a nuclear facility with a military purpose – though Syria denied this.
Nearly four years later, in 2011, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that the site was a nuclear reactor, and seven years after, Israel acknowledged the attack.