JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israel Defense Forces acknowledged that in 2007 it destroyed a nuclear reactor in its last stages of construction in northeastern Syria.
The news was released Wednesday after the IDF Military Censor cleared it for publication, 10-and-a-half years after the attack took place.
Israeli media has been unable to report on the overnight Sept. 5 and 6 bombing of the Al-Kibar nuclear reactor in the Deir ez-Zor area of Syria, though it has been reported on for the last decade in international media, including a detailed article by David Makovsky published in the New Yorker in 2012. Until Wednesday, Israel had neither confirmed nor denied that it bombed the reactor.
Israeli media reported Wednesday that part of the reason for the lifting of the reporting ban is that both Ehud Olmert, who was prime minister at the time of the attack, and Ehud Barak, who was his defense minister, have written about the attack and their role in making the decision in their newly published memoirs.
It is the second time that Israel has acknowledged destroying the nuclear reactor of an enemy country. In 1981 the IDF bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq, for which it immediately claimed credit.
“The message of the attack on the reactor in 2007 is that Israel will not accept the construction of a capability that threatens the existence of the State of Israel. That was the message in ’81. That was the message in 2007. And that is the message to our enemies for the future,” IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said in a video statement regarding the 2007 bombing released Wednesday by the IDF.
Yisrael Katz, the intelligeence minister, was more explicit in saying that the acknowledgment was a signal to Iran. “The courageous decision of the Israeli government almost 11 years ago to destroy the nuclear reactor in Syria and the successful operation following it sends a clear message: Israel will never allow nuclear weapons to countries like Iran who threaten its existence,” he said on Twitter.
The Deir ez-Zor area of Syria was in the hands of the Islamic State for two years beginning in May 2015.