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This Week in Israel’s History: IDF Destroys Syrian Nuclear Reactor

AP071024069123-195x110-870x400Before and after satellite images of the Syrian nuclear reactor at al-Kibar, which Israel destroyed in 2007. (AP/DigitalGlobe)

In a successful secret mission dubbed Operation Orchard, Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor at Al-Kibar military facility in northeastern Syria. Also this week 22 years ago, the PLO and Israel stated mutual recognition, paving the way for peace negotiations, which ultimately failed.

Israel Destroys Syrian Nuclear Reactor

On September 6, 2007, Israel secretly destroyed a nuclear reactor in Syria’s Al-Kibar military facility, in accordance with the Begin Doctrine, which states that no Israeli adversary in the Middle East should be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.

In a secret mission known as Operation Orchard, authorized by then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, eight Israeli aircraft flew along the Syrian-Turkish border shortly before 1 a.m. and destroyed the Syrian nuclear facility.

The planning began months earlier. In March, the Mossad – Israel’s national intelligence agency – raided the home of the head of Syria’s atomic energy commission in Vienna, where they discovered information about the reactor. The attack was launched after intense discussions between the American administration under the leadership of President George W. Bush and the Israeli leadership.

In a September 2012 analysis in The New Yorker by David Makovsky, senior fellow and director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at The Washington Institute, the information recovered by the Mossad operatives “was damning: roughly three dozen color photographs taken from inside the Syrian building, indicating that it was a top-secret plutonium nuclear reactor. The reactor, called Al Kibar, was nine hundred yards from the Euphrates River and halfway between the borders with Turkey and Iraq. The photographs showed workers from North Korea at the site, which was far from Syria’s biggest cities. The sole purpose of this kind of plutonium reactor, in the Mossad’s analysis, was to produce an atomic bomb.”


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