Operation Orchard

Operation Orchard

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Operation Orchard was an Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i airstrike
Airstrike
An air strike is an attack on a specific objective by military aircraft during an offensive mission. Air strikes are commonly delivered from aircraft such as fighters, bombers, ground attack aircraft, attack helicopters, and others...

 on a nuclear reactor in the Deir ez-Zor region
Deir ez-Zor Governorate
Deir ez-Zor Governorate or Muhafazah Dayr az Zawr is one of the fourteen governorates of Syria. It is situated in eastern Syria, bordering Iraq. It has an area of 33,060 km² and a population of 1,202,000...

 of Syria carried out just after midnight (local time) on September 6, 2007. The White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 and Central Intelligence Agency
Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government. It is an executive agency and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for providing national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers...

 (CIA) later confirmed that American intelligence had also indicated the site was a nuclear facility with a military purpose, though Syria denies this. An International Atomic Energy Agency
International Atomic Energy Agency
The International Atomic Energy Agency is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons. The IAEA was established as an autonomous organization on 29 July 1957...

 (IAEA) investigation reported evidence of uranium and graphite and concluded that the site bore features resembling an undeclared nuclear reactor. IAEA was initially unable to confirm or deny the nature of the site because, according to IAEA, Syria failed to provide necessary cooperation with the IAEA investigation Syria has disputed these claims. In April 2011, the IAEA officially confirmed that the site was a nuclear reactor.

According to news reports, the raid was carried out by Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force
The Israeli Air Force is the air force of the State of Israel and the aerial arm of the Israel Defense Forces. It was founded on May 28, 1948, shortly after the Israeli Declaration of Independence...

 (IAF) 69 Squadron
69 Squadron IAF
The 69 "Hammers" Squadron is an Israeli Air Force squadron operating the F-15I Thunder out of Hatzerim. It was formed in July 1948 to operate three B-17 Flying Fortresses which the fledgling Israeli Air Force had acquired in the United States...

 F-15Is, F-16Is, and an ELINT aircraft
Surveillance aircraft
A surveillance aircraft is an aircraft used for surveillance — collecting information over time. They are operated by military forces and other government agencies in roles such as intelligence gathering, battlefield surveillance, airspace surveillance, observation , border patrol and fishery...

; as many as eight aircraft participated and at least four of these crossed into Syrian airspace. The fighters
Fighter aircraft
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets...

 were equipped with AGM-65 Maverick
AGM-65 Maverick
The AGM-65 Maverick is an air-to-ground tactical missile designed for close-air support. It is effective against a wide range of tactical targets, including armor, air defenses, ships, ground transportation and fuel storage facilities....

 missiles
Air-to-surface missile
An air-to-surface missile is a missile designed to be launched from military aircraft and strike ground targets on land, at sea, or both...

, 500 lb bombs, and external fuel tank
Fuel tank
A fuel tank is safe container for flammable fluids. Though any storage tank for fuel may be so called, the term is typically applied to part of an engine system in which the fuel is stored and propelled or released into an engine...

s. One report stated that a team of elite Israeli Shaldag
Shaldag Unit
Shaldag , also known as Special Air-Ground Designating Team and Unit 5101, is an elite Israeli Air Force commando unit.- History :...

 special-forces commando
Commando
In English, the term commando means a specific kind of individual soldier or military unit. In contemporary usage, commando usually means elite light infantry and/or special operations forces units, specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting, rappelling and similar techniques, to conduct and...

s arrived at the site the day before so that they could highlight the target with laser beams, while a later report identified Sayeret Matkal
Sayeret Matkal
Sayeret Matkal is a special forces unit of the Israel Defence Forces , which is subordinated to the intelligence directorate Aman. First and foremost a field intelligence-gathering unit, conducting deep reconnaissance behind enemy lines to obtain strategic intelligence, Sayeret Matkal is also...

 special-forces commandos as involved.

Pre-strike activity


In 2001, the Mossad
Mossad
The Mossad , short for HaMossad leModi'in uleTafkidim Meyuchadim , is the national intelligence agency of Israel....

, Israel's external intelligence service, was profiling newly-inducted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

. Visits by North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

n dignitaries, which focused on advanced arms deliveries, were noticed. Aman, Israel's military intelligence
Military intelligence
Military intelligence is a military discipline that exploits a number of information collection and analysis approaches to provide guidance and direction to commanders in support of their decisions....

 department, suggested nuclear arms were being discussed, but the Mossad dismissed this theory. In Spring 2004, U.S. intelligence reported multiple communications between Syria and North Korea, and traced the calls to a desert location called al-Kibar. Unit 8200
Unit 8200
Unit 8200 is an Israeli Intelligence Corps unit responsible for collecting signal intelligence and code decryption. It also appears in military publications as the Central Collection Unit of the Intelligence Corps.-History:...

, Israel's signals intelligence and codebreaking unit, received the new information and added the location to its watch list.

In December 2006, a top Syrian official arrived in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 under a false name. The Mossad had detected a booking for the official in a London hotel, and dispatched at least ten undercover agents to London. The agents were split into three teams. One group was sent to Heathrow Airport
London Heathrow Airport
London Heathrow Airport or Heathrow , in the London Borough of Hillingdon, is the busiest airport in the United Kingdom and the third busiest airport in the world in terms of total passenger traffic, handling more international passengers than any other airport around the globe...

 to identify the official as he arrived, a second to book into his hotel, and a third to monitor his movements and visitors. Some of the operatives were from the Kidon Division, which specializes in assassinations, and the Negev Division, which specializes in breaking into homes, embassies, and hotel rooms to install bugging devices. On the first day of his visit, he visited the Syrian embassy and then went shopping. Kidon operatives closely followed him, while Negev operatives broke into his hotel room and found his laptop. A computer expert then installed software that allowed Israel to monitor all of his activities on the computer. When the computer material was examined at Mossad headquarters in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv , officially Tel Aviv-Yafo , is the second most populous city in Israel, with a population of 404,400 on a land area of . The city is located on the Israeli Mediterranean coastline in west-central Israel. It is the largest and most populous city in the metropolitan area of Gush Dan, with...

, officials found blueprints and hundreds of pictures of the Kibar facility in various stages of construction, and correspondence. One photograph showed North Korean nuclear official Chon Chibu
Chon Chibu
Chon Chibu is a Nuclear Scientist work works on the DPRK Civilian Nuclear Programme at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center in DPRK. Chibu was photographed in a track-suit while out on a sight-seeing tour of Syria in 2007...

 meeting with Ibrahim Othman, Syria's atomic energy agency director. Though the Mossad had originally planned to kill the official in London, it was decided to spare his life following the discovery. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert is an Israeli politician and lawyer. He served as Prime Minister of Israel from 2006 to 2009, as a Cabinet Minister from 1988 to 1992 and from 2003 to 2006, and as Mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003....

 was notified. The following month, Olmert formed a three-member panel to report on Syria's nuclear program. Six months later, Brigadier-General Ya'akov Amidror, one of the panel's members, informed Olmert that Syria was working with North Korea and Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 on a nuclear facility. Iran had funneled $1 billion to the project, and planned on using the Kibar facility to replace Iranian facilities if Iran was unable to complete its uranium enrichment program.

In July 2007, an explosion occurred
July 2007 Syrian arms depot explosion
The July 2007 Syrian arms depot explosion was a blast in July 2007 at a Syrian military depot. Syria said the explosion was the accidental detonation of an ammunition dump, but later reports suggested it was the result of a Syrian chemical weapons experiment....

 in Aleppo
Aleppo
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and the capital of Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 2,301,570 , expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area, it is also one of the largest cities in the Levant...

, northern Syria. The official Sana news agency said 15 Syrian military personnel were killed and 50 people were injured. The agency reported only that "very explosive products" blew up after a fire broke out at the facility. The September 26 edition of Jane's Defence Weekly
Jane's Defence Weekly
Jane's Defence Weekly is a weekly magazine reporting on military and corporate affairs, edited by Peter Felstead. It is one of a number of military-related publications named after John F. T. Jane, an Englishman who first published Jane's All the World's Fighting Ships in 1898...

claimed that the explosion happened during tests to weaponise a Scud-C missile with mustard gas.

A senior U.S. official told ABC News
ABC News
ABC News is the news gathering and broadcasting division of American broadcast television network ABC, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company...

that, in early summer 2007, Israel had discovered a suspected Syrian nuclear facility, and that the Mossad
Mossad
The Mossad , short for HaMossad leModi'in uleTafkidim Meyuchadim , is the national intelligence agency of Israel....

 then "managed to either co-opt one of the facility's workers or to insert a spy posing as an employee" at the suspected Syrian nuclear site, and through this was able to get pictures of the target from on the ground."

In August 2007, Israeli commandos from the Sayeret Matkal
Sayeret Matkal
Sayeret Matkal is a special forces unit of the Israel Defence Forces , which is subordinated to the intelligence directorate Aman. First and foremost a field intelligence-gathering unit, conducting deep reconnaissance behind enemy lines to obtain strategic intelligence, Sayeret Matkal is also...

 reconnaisance unit covertly raided the suspected Syrian nuclear facility and brought nuclear material back to Israel. Two helicopters ferried twelve commandos to the site in order to get photographic evidence and soil samples. The commandos were probably dressed in Syrian uniforms. Although the mission was successful, it had to be aborted earlier than planned after the Israelis were spotted by Syrian soldiers. Soil analysis revealed traces of nuclear activity. Anonymous sources reported that once material was tested and confirmed to have come from North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

, the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 approved an Israeli attack on the site. Senior U.S. officials later claimed that they were not involved in or approved the attack, but were informed in advance. In his memoir Decision Points
Decision Points
Decision Points is a memoir by former U.S. President George W. Bush. It was released on November 9, 2010, and the release was accompanied by national television appearances and a national tour. The book surpassed sales of two million copies less than two months after its release.-Content:Bush's...

, President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 wrote that Prime Minister Olmert requested that the U.S. bomb the Syrian site, but Bush refused, saying the intelligence was not definitive on whether the plant was part of a nuclear weapons program. Bush claimed that Olmert did not ask for a green light for an attack and that he did not give one, but that Olmert acted alone and did what he thought was necessary to protect Israel. Another report indicated that Israel planned to attack the site as early as July 14, but some U.S. officials, including Secretary of State
United States Secretary of State
The United States Secretary of State is the head of the United States Department of State, concerned with foreign affairs. The Secretary is a member of the Cabinet and the highest-ranking cabinet secretary both in line of succession and order of precedence...

 Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice is an American political scientist and diplomat. She served as the 66th United States Secretary of State, and was the second person to hold that office in the administration of President George W. Bush...

, preferred a public condemnation of Syria, thereby delaying the military strike until Israel feared the information would leak to the press. The Sunday Times also reported that the mission was "personally directed" by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak is an Israeli politician who served as Prime Minister from 1999 until 2001. He was leader of the Labor Party until January 2011 and holds the posts of Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister in Binyamin Netanyahu's government....

.
Three days before the attack, a North Korean cargo ship carrying materials labeled as cement docked in the Syrian port of Tartus. After the strike North Korea publicly condemned the raid. An Israeli on-line data analyst, Ronen Solomon, found an internet trace for the 1,700-tonne cargo ship, Al Hamed, which allegedly was docked at Tartus on September 3. By April 25, 2008 the ship was under the flag of the Comoros
Comoros
The Comoros , officially the Union of the Comoros is an archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean, located off the eastern coast of Africa, on the northern end of the Mozambique Channel, between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar...

.

The Israeli cabinet
Cabinet of Israel
The Cabinet of Israel is a formal body composed of government officials called ministers, chosen and led by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister must appoint members based on the distribution of votes to political parties during legislative elections, and its composition must be approved by a...

 convened in Jerusalem for a special session on September 4. At the end, it was claimed that the meeting had focused on Gaza
Gaza Strip
thumb|Gaza city skylineThe Gaza Strip lies on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Strip borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the south, east and north. It is about long, and between 6 and 12 kilometres wide, with a total area of...

.

Several newspapers reported that Iranian general Ali Reza Asgari, who disappeared in February in a possible defection to the West, supplied Western intelligence with information about the site.

Target



CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

 first reported that the airstrike targeted weapons "destined for Hezbollah militants" and that the strike "left a big hole in the desert". One week later, The Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

reported that U.S. and Israeli intelligence gathered information on a nuclear facility constructed in Syria with North Korean aid, and that the target was a "facility capable of making unconventional weapons". According to The Sunday Times, there were claims of a cache of nuclear material
Nuclear material
Nuclear material refers to the metals uranium, plutonium, and thorium, in any form, according to the IAEA. This is differentiated further into "source material", consisting of natural and depleted uranium, and "special fissionable material", consisting of enriched uranium , uranium-233, and...

s from North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

.

Syrian Vice-President Faruq Al Shara announced on September 30 that the Israeli target was the Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands, but the center itself immediately denied this. The following day Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

 described the bombing target as an "incomplete and empty military complex that was still under construction". He did not provide any further details about the nature of the structure or its purpose.

On 14 October The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

cited U.S. and Israeli military intelligence sources saying that the target had been a nuclear reactor
Nuclear reactor
A nuclear reactor is a device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction. Most commonly they are used for generating electricity and for the propulsion of ships. Usually heat from nuclear fission is passed to a working fluid , which runs through turbines that power either ship's...

 under construction by North Korean technicians, with a number of the technicians having been killed in the strike. On December 2 The Sunday Times quoted Uzi Even
Uzi Even
Professor Uzi Even is an Israeli professor of chemistry in Tel Aviv University and a former politician.-Biography:Born in Haifa to eastern European Jewish immigrants, Even studied for a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Physics at the Technion, and a Ph.D at Tel Aviv University...

, a professor at Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv University is a public university located in Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel. With nearly 30,000 students, TAU is Israel's largest university.-History:...

 and a founder of the Negev Nuclear Research Center
Negev Nuclear Research Center
The Negev Nuclear Research Center is an Israeli nuclear installation located in the Negev desert, about thirteen kilometers to the south-east of the city of Dimona. The purpose of Dimona is widely assumed to be the manufacturing of nuclear weapons, and the majority of defense experts have...

, saying that he believes that the Syrian site was built to process plutonium and assemble a nuclear bomb, using weapons-grade plutonium originally from North Korea. He also said that Syria's quick burial of the target site with tons of soil was a reaction to fears of radiation.

On March 19, 2009, Hans Rühle, former chief of the planning staff of the German Defense Ministry, wrote in the Swiss
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
The Neue Zürcher Zeitung is a major German language Swiss daily newspaper based in Zurich.One of the oldest newspapers still published, it originally appeared as Zürcher Zeitung, edited by Salomon Gessner, from January 12, 1780, and was renamed to Neue Zürcher Zeitung in 1821...

that Iran was financing a Syrian nuclear reactor. Rühle did not identify the sources of his information. He wrote that U.S. intelligence had detected North Korean ship deliveries of construction supplies to Syria that started in 2002, and that the construction was spotted by American satellites in 2003, who detected nothing unusual, partly because the Syrians had banned radio and telephones from the site and handled communications solely by messengers. He said that "The analysis was conclusive that it was a North Korean-type reactor, a gas graphite model" and that "Israel estimates that Iran had paid North Korea between $1 billion and $2 billion for the project". He also wrote that just before the Israeli operation, a North Korean ship was intercepted en route to Syria with nuclear fuel rods.

The Operation


During the night, an Israeli helicopter entered Syrian airspace and dropped a team of Shaldag Unit
Shaldag Unit
Shaldag , also known as Special Air-Ground Designating Team and Unit 5101, is an elite Israeli Air Force commando unit.- History :...

 commandos into the area. The commandos took up positions close to the nuclear site.

Ten Israeli F-15I Ra'am fighter jets from the Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force
The Israeli Air Force is the air force of the State of Israel and the aerial arm of the Israel Defense Forces. It was founded on May 28, 1948, shortly after the Israeli Declaration of Independence...

 69th Squadron armed with laser-guided bombs, escorted by F-16I Sufa fighter jets and an ELINT aircraft, took off from Ramat David Airbase
Ramat David Airbase
Ramat David Israeli Air Force Base is one of three principal airbases of the Israeli Air Force, located southeast of Haifa, close to kibbutz Ramat David and Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley...

. Three of the F-15s were ordered back to base, while the remaining seven continued towards Syria. The Israeli jets destroyed a Syrian radar site in Tall al-Abuad with conventional precision bombs, electronic attack, and jamming.

Israeli intelligence may have used technology similar to the Suter airborne network attack system
Suter (computer program)
Suter is a military computer program developed by BAE Systems that attacks computer networks and communications systems belonging to an enemy. Development of the program has been managed by Big Safari, a secret unit of the United States Air Force. It is specialised to interfere with the computers...

 to neutralize Syrian radars. This would make it possible to feed enemy radar emitters with false targets, and even directly manipulate enemy sensors. In May 2008, a report in IEEE Spectrum
IEEE Spectrum
IEEE Spectrum is a magazine edited by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The IEEE's description of it is:IEEE Spectrum began publishing in January 1964 as a successor to Electrical Engineering...

 cited European sources claiming that the Syrian air defense network had been deactivated by a secret built-in kill switch activated by the Israelis.

When the aircraft approached the site, the Shaldag commandos directed their targeting laser at the facility, and the F-15Is released their bombs. The facility was totally destroyed.

The Shaldag commandos were extracted, and all Israeli aircraft returned to base. On their way back to Israel, the aircraft flew over Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 and jettisoned fuel tanks over the Hatay
Hatay Province
Hatay Province is a province in southern Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast. It is bordered by Syria to the south and east and the Turkish provinces of Adana and Osmaniye to the north. The province is part of Çukurova, a geographical, economical and cultural region that covers the provinces of...

 and Gaziantep
Gaziantep Province
Gaziantep Province is a province in south-central Turkey. Its capital is the city of Gaziantep which had a population of 853,513 as of 2000. Its neighbours are Adıyaman at north, Şanlıurfa at east, Syria and Kilis at south, Hatay at southwest, Osmaniye at west and Kahramanmaraş at northwest.An...

 provinces.

Immediately following the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert is an Israeli politician and lawyer. He served as Prime Minister of Israel from 2006 to 2009, as a Cabinet Minister from 1988 to 1992 and from 2003 to 2006, and as Mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003....

 called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been Prime Minister of Turkey since 2003 and is chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party , which holds a majority of the seats in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. Erdoğan served as Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998. He graduated in 1981 from Marmara...

, explained the situation, and asked him to relay a message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

 that Israel would not tolerate another nuclear plant, but that no further action was planned. Olmert said that Israel did not want to play up the incident and was still interested in peace with Syria, adding that if Assad chose not to draw attention to the incident, he would do likewise.

Israeli official statements


The first report about the raid came from CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

. Israel initially did not comment on the incident, although Israeli Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Israel
The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of the Israeli government and the most powerful political figure in Israel . The prime minister is the country's chief executive. The official residence of the prime minister, Beit Rosh Hamemshala is in Jerusalem...

 Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert is an Israeli politician and lawyer. He served as Prime Minister of Israel from 2006 to 2009, as a Cabinet Minister from 1988 to 1992 and from 2003 to 2006, and as Mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003....

 did say that "The security services and Israeli defence forces are demonstrating unusual courage. We naturally cannot always show the public our cards." Israeli papers were banned from doing their own reporting on the airstrike. On September 16 the head of Israeli military intelligence, Amos Yadlin
Amos Yadlin
Aluf Amos Yadlin is a former general in the Israeli Air Force and was the head of the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate, known as Aman. Before being promoted to head of Aman, Yadlin was the Israel Defense Forces military attaché to Washington, D.C.. Previously in his career he headed...

, told a parliamentary committee that Israel regained its "deterrent capability".

The first public acknowledgment by an Israeli official came on September 19 when opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is the current Prime Minister of Israel. He serves also as the Chairman of the Likud Party, as a Knesset member, as the Health Minister of Israel, as the Pensioner Affairs Minister of Israel and as the Economic Strategy Minister of Israel.Netanyahu is the first and, to...

 said that he had backed the operation and congratulated Prime Minister Olmert. Netanyahu advisor Uzi Arad
Uzi Arad
Uzi Arad is an Israeli Strategist and a well-known figure in foreign policy, security and strategic circles in Israel and abroad. He is a Professor at The Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at The Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. In July 2011 Arad re-joined the faculty of the...

 later told Newsweek
Newsweek
Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine published in New York City. It is distributed throughout the United States and internationally. It is the second-largest news weekly magazine in the U.S., having trailed Time in circulation and advertising revenue for most of its existence...

"I do know what happened, and when it comes out it will stun everyone."

On September 17 Prime Minister Olmert announced that he was ready to make peace with Syria "without preset conditions and without ultimatums". According to a poll done by the Dahaf Research Institute, Olmert's approval rating rose from 25% to 35% after the airstrike.

On October 2, 2007 the IDF confirmed the attack took place, following a request by Haaretz
Haaretz
Haaretz is Israel's oldest daily newspaper. It was founded in 1918 and is now published in both Hebrew and English in Berliner format. The English edition is published and sold together with the International Herald Tribune. Both Hebrew and English editions can be read on the Internet...

to lift censorship; however, the IDF continued to censor details of the actual strike force and its target.

Amir Oren, an Israeli journalist publishing in Haaretz opined "we can safely say that behind the successful blackout campaign lies an enormous failure" namely the failure to provoke Assad into a military response: "whoever expected him to respond to the operation in a military operation was wrong".

On October 28, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his cabinet
Cabinet of Israel
The Cabinet of Israel is a formal body composed of government officials called ministers, chosen and led by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister must appoint members based on the distribution of votes to political parties during legislative elections, and its composition must be approved by a...

 that he had apologized to Turkish
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been Prime Minister of Turkey since 2003 and is chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party , which holds a majority of the seats in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. Erdoğan served as Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998. He graduated in 1981 from Marmara...

 if Israel violated Turkish airspace. In a statement released to the press after the meeting he said: "In my conversation with the Turkish prime minister, I told him that if Israeli planes indeed penetrated Turkish airspace, then there was no intention thereby, either in advance or in any case, to — in any way — violate or undermine Turkish sovereignty, which we respect."

Syrian reaction



Syria at first claimed that its anti-aircraft weapons had fired at Israeli planes, which bombed empty areas in the desert, or later, a military construction site. During the two days following the attack, Turkish
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 media reported finding Israeli fuel tanks in Hatay
Hatay Province
Hatay Province is a province in southern Turkey, on the Mediterranean coast. It is bordered by Syria to the south and east and the Turkish provinces of Adana and Osmaniye to the north. The province is part of Çukurova, a geographical, economical and cultural region that covers the provinces of...

 and Gaziantep Province
Gaziantep Province
Gaziantep Province is a province in south-central Turkey. Its capital is the city of Gaziantep which had a population of 853,513 as of 2000. Its neighbours are Adıyaman at north, Şanlıurfa at east, Syria and Kilis at south, Hatay at southwest, Osmaniye at west and Kahramanmaraş at northwest.An...

, and the Turkish Foreign Minister lodged a formal protest with the Israeli envoy.

In a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon is the eighth and current Secretary-General of the United Nations, after succeeding Kofi Annan in 2007. Before going on to be Secretary-General, Ban was a career diplomat in South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the United Nations. He entered diplomatic service the year he...

, Syria called the incursion a "breach of airspace of the Syrian Arab Republic" and said "it is not the first time Israel has violated" Syrian airspace. Syria also accused the international community of ignoring Israeli actions. A U.N. spokesperson said Syria had not requested a meeting of the UN Security Council and France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, at the time the president of the Security Council, said it had received no letter from Syria.

On April 27, 2008 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party. His father Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria for 29 years until his death in 2000. Al-Assad was elected in 2000, re-elected in 2007, unopposed each time.- Early Life :...

, making his first public comments about the raid, dismissed the allegations that it was a nuclear site which was attacked as false: "Is it logical? A nuclear site did not have protection with surface to air defenses? A nuclear site within the footprint of satellites in the middle of Syria in an open area in the desert?" Independent experts, however, suggested that Syria did not fortify its suspected reactor in order to avoid drawing attention and because the building was not yet operational. Besides a nuclear program, Syria is believed to have extensive arsenals, as well as biological and chemical warheads for its long-range missiles. On February 25, 2009, IAEA officials reported that Ibrahim Othman, Syria's nuclear chief, told a closed IAEA technical meeting it held that Syria built a missile facility on the site.

According to a Wikileaks
Wikileaks
WikiLeaks is an international self-described not-for-profit organisation that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous news sources, news leaks, and whistleblowers. Its website, launched in 2006 under The Sunshine Press organisation, claimed a database of more...

 cable, the Syrian government placed long-range missiles armed with chemical warheads on high alert after the attack but did not retaliate fearing an Israeli nuclear counterstrike.

International reactions


No Arab government besides Syria has formally commented on the September 6 incident. The Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram
Al-Ahram
Al-Ahram , founded in 1875, is the most widely circulating Egyptian daily newspaper, and the second oldest after al-Waqa'i`al-Masriya . It is majority owned by the Egyptian government....

commented on the "synchronized silence of the Arab world." Neither the Israeli nor Syrian government has offered a detailed description of what occurred. Outside experts and media commentators have filled the data vacuum by offering their own diverse interpretations about what precisely happened that night. Western commentators took the position that the lack of official non-Syrian Arab condemnations of Israel's action, threats of retaliation against Israel, or even professions of support for the Syrian government or people must imply that their governments tacitly supported the Israeli action. Even Iranian officials have not formally commented on the Israeli attack or Syria's reactions.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates
Robert Gates
Dr. Robert Michael Gates is a retired civil servant and university president who served as the 22nd United States Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011. Prior to this, Gates served for 26 years in the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council, and under President George H. W....

 was asked if North Korea was helping Syria in the nuclear realm, but replied only that "we are watching the North Koreans very carefully. We watch the Syrians very carefully."

The North Korean government strongly condemned Israel's actions: "This is a very dangerous provocation little short of wantonly violating the sovereignty of Syria and seriously harassing the regional peace and security."

On October 17, in reaction to the UN press office's release of a First Committee, Disarmament and International Security
General Assembly First Committee
The First Committee is one of six main committees at the General Assembly of the United Nations which deals with matters concerning world peace. The First Committee handles all matters on Disarmament and International Security ....

 meeting's minutes that paraphrased an unnamed Syrian representative as saying that a nuclear facility was hit by the raid, Syria denied the statement, adding that "such facilities do not exist in Syria." However state-run Syrian Arab News Agency
Syrian Arab News Agency
The Syrian Arab News Agency is a news agency in Syria. It is a state media organisation linked to the Ministry of Information. It was established in 1965....

 said that media reports had misquoted the Syrian diplomat.

On the same day, the IAEA's Mohamed ElBaradei criticized the raid, saying that to bomb first and ask questions later "undermines the system and it doesn't lead to any solution to any suspicion." The IAEA had been observing the disabling of the DPRK Yongbyon nuclear facilities
Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center
The Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center is North Korea's major nuclear facility, operating its first nuclear reactors. It is located in the county of Nyŏngbyŏn in North Pyongan province, about 90 km north of Pyongyang...

 since July 2007, and was responsible for the containment and surveillance of the fuel rods and other nuclear materials from there.

The New York Times on October 26 published satellite photographs showing that the Syrians had almost entirely removed all remains of the facility. U.S. intelligence sources noted that such an operation would usually take a year's time, and expressed astonishment at the speed with which it was carried out. Former weapons inspector David Albright
David Albright
David Albright, M.S., is the founder of the non-governmental Institute for Science and International Security , its current president, and author of several books on proliferation of atomic weapons. Albright holds a Master of Science in physics from Indiana University and a M.Sc. in mathematics...

 believed that the work was meant to hide evidence of wrongdoing.

The U.S. House
United States House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives is one of the two Houses of the United States Congress, the bicameral legislature which also includes the Senate.The composition and powers of the House are established in Article One of the Constitution...

 Resolution 674, introduced on September 24, 2007, expressed “unequivocal support” ... “for Israel’s right to self defense in the face of an imminent nuclear or military threat from Syria.”

On April 28, 2008, CIA Director Michael Hayden said that a suspected Syrian reactor bombed by Israel had the capacity to produce enough nuclear material to fuel one to two weapons a year, and that it was of a "similar size and technology" to North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

's Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center
Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center
The Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center is North Korea's major nuclear facility, operating its first nuclear reactors. It is located in the county of Nyŏngbyŏn in North Pyongan province, about 90 km north of Pyongyang...

.

In his memoir Decision Points
Decision Points
Decision Points is a memoir by former U.S. President George W. Bush. It was released on November 9, 2010, and the release was accompanied by national television appearances and a national tour. The book surpassed sales of two million copies less than two months after its release.-Content:Bush's...

, President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 claimed that the strike confirmed that Syria had been pursuing a nuclear-weapons program and that "intelligence is not an exact science", relating that while he had been told that U.S. analysts only had low confidence that the facility was part of a nuclear-weapons program, surveillance after the airstrike showed Syrian officials covering up parts of the destroyed facility. Bush wrote that "if the facility was really just an innocent research lab, Syrian President Assad would have been screaming at the Israelis on the floor of the United Nations". Bush claimed that in a telephone conversation with Olmert, he suggested that the operation be kept secret for a while and then made public to isolate the Syrian regime, but Olmert asked for total secrecy, wanting to avoid anything that might force Syria to retaliate.

Release of intelligence


On October 10, 2007 The New York Times reported that the Israelis had shared the Syrian strike dossier with Turkey. In turn the Turks traveled to Damascus and confronted the Syrians with the dossier alleging a nuclear program. Syria denied this with vigor saying that the target was a storage depot for strategic missiles. On October 25, 2007 The New York Times reported that two commercial satellite photos taken before and after the raid showed that a square building no longer exists at the suspected site. On October 27, 2007 The New York Times reported that the imaging company Geoeye
GeoEye
GeoEye Inc. is a commercial satellite imagery company based in Herndon, Virginia that is the world's largest space imaging corporation....

 released an image of the building from September 16, 2003, and from this security analyst John Pike
John E. Pike
John E. Pike is a national security analyst and director and founder of GlobalSecurity.org. An easily accessible pundit, he was active in opposing the Strategic Defense Initiative, and International Traffic in Arms Regulations, and consulting on Near-Earth objects that are potential threats to the...

 estimated that construction began in 2001. "A senior intelligence official" also told The New York Times that the U.S. has observed the site for years by spy satellite. Subsequent searches of satellite imagery discovered that an astronaut aboard the International Space Station had taken a picture of the area on September 5, 2002. The image, though of low resolution, is good enough to show that the building existed as of that date.

On January 11, 2008, DigitalGlobe
DigitalGlobe
DigitalGlobe, of Longmont, Colorado, USA, is a commercial vendor of space imagery and geospatial content, and operator of civilian remote sensing spacecraft...

 released a satellite photo showing that a building similar to the suspected target of the attack had been rebuilt in the same location. However, an outside expert said that it was unlikely to be a reactor and could be cover for excavation of the old site. On April 1, 2008 Asahi Shimbun
Asahi Shimbun
The is the second most circulated out of the five national newspapers in Japan. Its circulation, which was 7.96 million for its morning edition and 3.1 million for its evening edition as of June 2010, was second behind that of Yomiuri Shimbun...

reported that Ehud Olmert told Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda
Yasuo Fukuda
was the 91st Prime Minister of Japan, serving from 2007 to 2008. He was previously the longest-serving Chief Cabinet Secretary in Japanese history, serving for three and a half years under Prime Ministers Yoshirō Mori and Junichiro Koizumi....

 during a meeting on February 27 that the target of the strike was "nuclear-related facility that was under construction with know-how and assistance from North Korean technicians dispatched by Pyongyang." On April 24, 2008, the CIA released a video and background briefing, which it claims shows similarities between the North Korean nuclear reactor in Yongbyon and the one in Syria which was bombed by Israel. According to a U.S. official, there did not appear to be any uranium at the reactor, and although it was almost completed, it could not have been declared operational without significant testing.

A statement from the White House Press Secretary
White House Press Secretary
The White House Press Secretary is a senior White House official whose primary responsibility is to act as spokesperson for the government administration....

 on April 24, 2008 followed the briefing given to some Congressional committees that week. According to the statement, the administration believed that Syria had been building a covert reactor with North Korean assistance that was capable of producing plutonium
Plutonium
Plutonium is a transuranic radioactive chemical element with the chemical symbol Pu and atomic number 94. It is an actinide metal of silvery-gray appearance that tarnishes when exposed to air, forming a dull coating when oxidized. The element normally exhibits six allotropes and four oxidation...

, and that the purpose was non-peaceful. It was also stated that the IAEA was being briefed with the intelligence. The IAEA confirmed receipt of the information, and planned to investigate. It was critical of not being informed earlier, and described the unilateral use of force as "undermining the due process of verification".

Syrian officials, however, denied any North Korean involvement in their country. According to the BBC, Syria's ambassador to the UK, Sami Khiyami, dismissed the allegations as ridiculous. "We are used to such allegations now, since the day the United States has invaded Iraq - you remember all the theatrical presentations concerning the WMDs weapons of mass destruction
Weapons of mass destruction
A weapon of mass destruction is a weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans and/or cause great damage to man-made structures , natural structures , or the biosphere in general...

 in Iraq." Mr Khiyami said the facility was a deserted military building that had "nothing to do with a reactor".

Initial skepticism about the US and Israeli claims


Despite the release of intelligence information from the American and Israeli sources, the attack on the Syrian site was initially controversial. Some commentators have argued that at the time of the attack the site had no obvious barbed wire or air defenses that would normally ring a sensitive military facility. Mohammed ElBaradei had previously stated that Syria's ability to construct and run a complex nuclear process was doubtful - speaking ahead of the IAEA inspection of the alleged Syrian nuclear site, which has been demolished, he said: "It is doubtful we will find anything there now, assuming there was anything in the first place." The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

reported that after the publishing of US intelligence data on April 24, "two senior intelligence officials acknowledged that the evidence had left them with no more than “low confidence” that Syria was preparing to build a nuclear weapon. However, while they said that there was no sign that Syria had built an operation to convert the spent fuel from the plant into weapons-grade plutonium, they had told President Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 last year that they could think of no other explanation for the reactor." BBC Diplomatic Correspondent Jonathan Marcus commented on the release of the CIA video that "Briefings about alleged weapons of mass destruction programmes have a lot to live down in the wake of the US experience in Iraq".

IAEA investigation


On November 19, 2008, IAEA released a report which said the Syrian complex bore features resembling those of an undeclared nuclear reactor and U.N. inspectors found "significant" traces of uranium at the site. The report said the findings gleaned from inspectors' visit to the site in June were not enough to conclude a reactor was once there. It said further investigation and greater Syrian transparency were needed. The confidential nuclear safeguards report said Syria would be asked to show to inspectors debris and equipment whisked away from the site after the September 2007 Israeli air raid.

On February 19, 2009, the IAEA reported that samples taken from the site revealed new traces of processed uranium. A senior UN official said additional analysis of the June find had found 40 more uranium particles, for a total of 80 particles, and described it as significant. He added that experts were analyzing minute traces of graphite and stainless steel found at and near the site, but said that it was too early to relate them to nuclear activity. The report noted Syria's refusal to allow agency inspectors to make follow-up visits to sites suspected of harboring a secret nuclear program despite repeated requests from top agency officials. Syria disputed these claims. According to Syria's IAEA representative Othman, there would have been a large amount of graphite had the building been a nuclear reactor. Othman continued, "They found 80 particles in half a million tonnes of soil. I don't know how you can use that figure to accuse somebody of building such a facility."

In a November, 2009 report, the IAEA stated that its investigation had been stymied due to Syria's failure to cooperate. The following February, under the new leadership of Yukiya Amano
Yukiya Amano
is the current Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency , having been elected to the position in July 2009. Amano previously served as a Japanese diplomat and international civil servant for the United Nations and its subdivisions....

, the IAEA stated that "The presence of such [uranium] particles points to the possibility of nuclear-related activities at the site and adds to questions concerning the nature of the destroyed building...Syria has yet to provide a satisfactory explanation for the origin and presence of these particles". Syria disputed these allegations, saying that there is not a military nuclear program in the country and that it has the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the field of nuclear medicine. Syria's foreign minister said, "We are committed to the non-proliferation agreement between the agency and Syria and we (only) allow inspectors to come according to this agreement...We will not allow anything beyond the agreement because Syria does not have a military nuclear program. Syria is not obliged to open its other sites to inspectors." Syria maintains that the natural uranium found at the site came from Israeli missiles.
On April 28, 2010, the head of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano
Yukiya Amano
is the current Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency , having been elected to the position in July 2009. Amano previously served as a Japanese diplomat and international civil servant for the United Nations and its subdivisions....

 declared for the first time that the target was indeed the covert site of a future nuclear reactor, countering Syrian assertions.

See also

  • Syria and weapons of mass destruction
    Syria and weapons of mass destruction
    Syria has allegedly researched, manufactured, and possessed weapons of mass destruction.Western non-governmental organizations have stated they believe Syria has an active chemical weapons program...

  • Operation Opera
    Operation Opera
    Operation Babylon was a surprise Israeli air strike carried out on June 7, 1981, that destroyed a nuclear reactor under construction 17 kilometers southeast of Baghdad, Iraq....

  • Ain es Saheb airstrike
    Ain es Saheb airstrike
    The Ain es Saheb airstrike occurred on October 5, 2003 and was the first overt Israeli military operation in Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.- Operation :...

  • 2008 Abu Kamal raid
    2008 Abu Kamal raid
    The 2008 Abu Kamal raid was an attack carried out by helicopter-borne CIA paramilitary officers from Special Activities Division and United States Special Operations Command, Joint Special Operations Command inside Syrian territory on October 26, 2008...


External links