Israel on Wednesday formally acknowledged that its air force blew up a Syrian nuclear reactor in the area of Deir Ezzor in eastern Syria in the pre-dawn hours of September 6, 2007, in a mission known to much of the world as Operation Orchard.
The secret operation involved eight fighter jets flying at low altitude during the night of 5th September 2007 in the Deir Ezzor region, Israel’s military said.
Israeli intelligence believed that the reactor was built by North Korea, copying the model of an outdated British reactor built in the 1950s, and that the site was due to become operational by December 2007.
According to Israeli and American intelligence, the Deir Ezzor site, known in Syria as al-Kibar, contained a gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor that was capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium, similar to North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear facility.
Israel’s former Director of Military Intelligence Amos Yadlin said this week that Israel’s decision not to publicise the operation at the reduced the likelihood of conflict between the two countries: “Israel provided Assad with deniability – and this decreased the likelihood of a Syrian retaliatory response that could have escalated to war”.