Israel confirms it destroyed suspected Syrian nuclear facility in 2007

Israel's role had been widely suspected but it was not confirmed

Israel confirms it destroyed suspected Syrian nuclear facility in 2007

An image provided by the Israeli Defence Forces of the suspected Nuclear Facility in Syria. Image: Israeli Defence Forces

Israel's military has confirmed it was behind an airstrike that destroyed what it believed to be a nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007.

Newly-declassified material showed the decision to hide the link to Israel was made due to the possibility of war.

Instead, authorities ordered the strike be kept secret until further notice.

The airstrike saw eight F-15 fighters bomb the reactor in the Deir el-Zour region, about 300 miles northwest of Damascus on 6 September.

It had been in development for years and was due to begin operations at the end of that year.

In a statement, Israel described the strike as having "successfully removed an emerging existential threat to Israel and to the entire region - Syrian nuclear capabilities."

Nuclear

Syria had denied it was building a nuclear reactor but the UN nuclear watchdog said the site was "very likely" to be a nuclear reactor and the North Koreans could have been helping to build it.

Also included in the material was footage of the strike, which caused "irreversible" damage, and pictures of secret army intelligence communiques regarding the target.

Israel's role had been widely suspected but it was not confirmed until now.

One reason could be the upcoming memoir of former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who ordered the strike.

Or it could also be a warning to Iran, Israel's bitter enemy which is increasingly active in Syria, where it is an ally of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

Threat

Military chief Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot said in a statement: "The message from the 2007 attack on the reactor is that Israel will not tolerate construction that can pose an existential threat."

According to Air force commander Major General Amikam Norkin, the strike has been vindicated by the conflict and chaos in Syria, as the reactor was in an area that was later under the control of Islamic State.

"Imagine what situation we would be in today if there was a nuclear reactor in Syria," he said.

"In historic hindsight, I think Israel's decision to destroy the reactor is one of the most important decisions taken here in the last 70 years."

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said: "The motivation of our enemies has grown in recent years, but so too the might of the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces)."