Israel admits bombing Syrian reactor in 2007, threatens Iran with the same

Benjamin Netanyahu.
Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo credit: Reuters

Israel for the first time admitted that it bombed a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007 and said on Wednesday the strike should be a warning to Iran that it would not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

The military released previously classified cockpit footage, photographs and intelligence documents about its September 2007, air strike on the Al-Kubar facility near Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria.

It said the reactor was being constructed with help from North Korea and had been months away from activation.

Amos Yadlin, Israel's military intelligence chief at the time, said on Israel Radio that even with a functioning reactor, it would have taken Syria years to build a nuclear weapon.

Israel's decision to go public comes after repeated calls in recent months by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the United States and international community to take tougher action on Iran, Syria's ally.

Mr Netanyahu said on Wednesday Israel was determined to prevent its enemies from obtaining nuclear weapons.

"The Israeli government, the Israel Defence Forces and the Mossad prevented Syria from developing nuclear capability. They are worthy of full praise for this. Israel's policy was and remains consistent - to prevent our enemies from arming themselves with nuclear weapons," Mr Netanyahu wrote on Twitter.

The Israeli military described in detail events leading up to the night of September 5-6, 2007, in which, it said, eight warplanes, F-16s and F-15s, carried out the mission. They dropped 18 tonnes of munitions on the site.

Mr Yadlin said Israel decided at the time against acknowledging the raid on the reactor so as not to provoke Syrian President Bashar al-Assad into retaliating.

A series of black-and-white videos, taken above the target, shows the structure in cross-hairs.

A male voice is heard counting down three seconds, a cloud of black smoke rises from the structure as it explodes.

Other footage appears to show the aftermath - a smouldering hole in the ground.