The Israeli military confirmed Wednesday it carried out the 2007 airstrike in Syria that destroyed what was believed to be a nuclear reactor, lifting the veil of secrecy over one of its most daring and mysterious operations in recent memory. Although Israel was widely believed to have been behind the Sept. 6, 2007, airstrike, it has never before commented publicly on it, the AP reports. In a lengthy release, the military revealed that eight F-15 fighter jets carried out the top-secret airstrikes against the facility in the Deir el-Zour region, about 300 miles northeast of Damascus, destroying a site that had been in development for years and was scheduled to go into operation at the end of that year.
Israel's involvement has been one of its most closely held secrets, and it was not immediately clear why Israel decided to go public now. The military would not comment on its reasoning, but the move could be related to the upcoming memoir of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who ordered the strike and has hinted about it for years, or it could be meant as a warning to archenemy Iran, which is active in Syria. At the time of the 2007 strike, Syria accused Israel of invading its airspace, but gave no further details about the target. The pre-mission briefing, made public Wednesday, stated that the operation should not be attributed to Israel so as to minimize the potential for an all-out war. (The UN believes the reactor was part of a secret nuclear weapons program.)