Israel Admits 2007 Syrian 'Nuclear Reactor' Strike for 1st Time

Prime MInister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the 8th Negev Conference in Dimona

Prime MInister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the 8th Negev Conference in Dimona

Earlier on Wednesday, Intelligence Affairs Minister Yisrael Katz commented on the release of the previously classified details of the bombing and said: "Israel will never permit nuclear weapons to be obtained by those who threaten its existence - Syria then and Iran now".

"The Israeli government, the IDF (Israeli military), and the Mossad (intelligence agency) have prevented Syria from developing nuclear capability, and they deserve every credit for this", Netanyahu said on Twitter.

In 2008, less than a year after the strike, United States officials accused Syria of having sought to build a secret nuclear reactor and acknowledged Israel destroyed it in the raid.

The military said the F-15s took off from two bases in southern Israel at 10:30 p.m. on September 5, and returned four hours later. Until Wednesday, Israel had neither confirmed nor denied that it bombed the reactor.

Israeli and American intelligence had indicated that Syria's Deir Ezzor site - also known as al-Kibar - housed a gas-cooled, graphite-moderated nuclear reactor capable of manufacturing weapons-grade plutonium, and that it was almost operational when Israel destroyed it under the direction of then-prime minister Ehud Olmert.

Bergman agrees there are similarities between what happened then and Iran's attempts today to embed its forces in Syria.

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Several months after the strike, the USA announced that intelligence indicated the site was a nuclear reactor with military objective. "Israel's policy has been and remains consistent - to prevent our enemies from arming themselves with nuclear weapons".

Both Iran and Hezbollah are allied with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Tzipi Livni, who was foreign minister at the time of the strike, told The Associated Press that in discussions after Israel discovered the reactor, "we asked ourselves whether Israel can, or is, willing to live with this".

In February, the conflict between Israel and Iran in Syria escalated.

The latest such attacks took place on February 20, when Israeli warplanes bombed a Syrian army facility in central Syria.

A military statement summarising the operation lays out the case for why Israel carried out the strike at the desert site in the Deir Ezzor region of eastern Syria on what it says was a nuclear reactor under construction. The former prime minister explained that from that moment, in March 2007, Israel's political and military echelons began preparing the operational activities, which he described as "unprecedented". He wanted to avoid anything that might back Syria into a corner and force Assad to retaliate.

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