Israel said today that its Air Force attacked and totally destroyed the Iraqi “Osiriak” nuclear reactor nearing completion near Baghdad yesterday because it had positive knowledge that the plant would produce atomic bombs to be used expressly against Israel. The surprise communique issued at 4 p.m. local time while the country was observing the Shavuot holiday, said the action was ordered after it was learned from the “most authoritative and credible sources” that the reactor was intended to produce nuclear bombs despite Iraq’s denial.
The communique said that all Israeli aircraft returned safely to their bases after what was the longest mission ever carried out by the Air Force apart from the Entebbe rescue operation in July, 1976. According to the government, the raid was planned for Sunday when it was expected that none if any of the 100 to 120 foreign experts working on the reactor would be at the site. The government claimed its assumption was correct and that no foreigners were hurt in the raid.
The communique sought to justify the unprecedented attack that could have severe repercussions abroad. It stressed that Iraqi President Amed Hassan al-Bakr had announced himself, after the reactor was slightly damaged by Iranian bombers last year, that the weapons it would produce would be used only against Israel and the Iranians, who are still at war with Iraq, would have nothing to fear.
BOMBS OF HIROSHIMA TYPE
The government stated that the bombs to be produced at the Osiriak reactor would be made from enriched uranium and plutonium, the type used at Hiroshima in 1945 and would pose a danger to Israel’s existence. The communique said the government was given two probable dates for the completion of the reactor from the “most credible sources.” They were at the beginning of July and the beginning of September. Action had to be taken to destroy the reactor now, the communique said, before it became “hot.” No Israeli government would take responsibility for attacking a “hot” reactor because it would send waves of radioactive material over Baghdad with serious consequences for the country’s innocent population, the communique noted.
For that reason, the government waited for the most propitious moment to destroy the reactor without endangering civilians. The communique added that “two European countries” had agreed to help the Iraqis build the reactor “in return for oil.” It did not name the countries but appealed to them to stop their assistance in a project that would lead to the destruction of human life. “Under no conditions will we allow the enemy to produce such inhuman weapons,” the communique said. “We shall defend our people at all times and by all means at our disposal.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.