Operation Orchard: Israel’s strike on the Syrian reactor

Operation Outside the Box  was an Israeli airstrike on a suspected nuclear reactor  in the Deir ez-Zor region of Syria, which occurred just after midnight (local time) on 6 September 2007. The Israeli and U.S. governments did not announce the secret raids for seven months.

The White House and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) subsequently confirmed that American intelligence had also indicated the site was a nuclear facility with a military purpose, though Syria denies this.A 2009 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation reported evidence of uranium and graphite and concluded that the site bore features resembling an undeclared nuclear reactor. IAEA was initially unable to confirm or deny the nature of the site because, according to IAEA, Syria failed to provide necessary cooperation with the IAEA investigation.

Syria has disputed these claims. Nearly four years later, in April 2011 during the Syrian Civil War, the IAEA officially confirmed that the site was a nuclear reactor. Israel did not acknowledge the attack until 2018.

The attack reportedly followed Israeli top-level consultations with the Bush Administration.[citation needed] After realizing that the US was not willing to take its own military action, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decided to adhere to the 1981 Begin Doctrine and unilaterally strike to prevent a Syrian nuclear weapons capability, despite serious concerns about Syrian retaliation. In stark contrast to the doctrine’s prior usage against Iraq, the airstrike against Syria did not elicit international outcry.

A main reason is that Israel maintained total and complete silence regarding the attack, and Syria covered up its activities at the site and did not cooperate fully with the IAEA. The international silence may have been a tacit recognition of the inevitability of preemptive attacks on “clandestine nuclear programs in their early stages.” If true, the Begin Doctrine has undoubtedly played a role in shaping this global perception.

According to official government confirmation on 21 March 2018, the raid was carried out by Israeli Air Force (IAF) 69 Squadron F-15Is,[18] and 119 and 253 Squadron F-16Is, and an ELINT aircraft; as many as eight aircraft participated and at least four of these crossed into Syrian airspace.

The fighters were equipped with AGM-65 Maverick missiles, 500 lb bombs, and external fuel tanks. One report stated that a team of elite Israeli Shaldag special-forces commandos arrived at the site the day before so that they could highlight the target with laser designators, while a later report identified Sayeret Matkal special-forces commandos as involved.

The attack pioneered the use of the Israel’s electronic warfare capabilities,as IAF electronic warfare (EW) systems took over Syria’s air defense systems, feeding them a false sky-picture for the entire period of time that the Israeli fighter jets needed to cross Syria, bomb their target and return.

As of late September 2017, the Kibar nuclear site located on the northern bank of the Euphrates between Raqqa and Deir Ezzor was captured by the Syrian Democratic Forces – a coalition of Kurdish YPG fighters, Sunni Arab anti-Assad fighters, and Sunni tribes militia backed by US military supplies and the US Air Force – from a retreating ISIL force in northern Deir Ezzor province.

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