(JNS) The State of Israel has formally acknowledged that its air force blew up a Syrian nuclear reactor between September 5 and 6, 2007. Israeli officials said they did not confirm the strike at the time in order to give Syrian dictator Bashar Assad an opportunity to save face and avoid escalation with Israel, following the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Israel never took official responsibility for the attack, though details of the strike were speculated in the media.
Israeli and American intelligence had indicated that Syria’s Deir Ezzor site was nearly operational when Israel destroyed it under the direction of then-prime minister Ehud Olmert.
According to reports, Prime Minister Olmert wanted to bomb the reactor as soon as possible, despite calls to stall by then-U.S. president George W. Bush and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. But the security cabinet authorized the strike and pilots were scrambled without being told the target. The IAF pilots were then told “the operation was of the utmost importance to the State of Israel and the Jewish people,” according to then-Air Force head Eliezer Shkedi, and equipped with 17 tons of explosives.