Israel confirmed it conducted the 2007 bombing of a partially completed reactor in Syria that likely was part of an illicit nuclear weapons program. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on March 21 that Israel “prevented Syria from developing nuclear capability” and that Israeli policy to prevent “enemies from arming themselves with nuclear weapons” remains consistent.
It was generally accepted that Israel was behind the September 2007 airstrike on the al-Kibar facility in Deir al-Zour, but Israel did not publicly acknowledge its role until March 21, when it declassified documents on the attack. Previously, Israeli censors blocked journalists from publishing reports tying the Israeli government to the attack, although foreign media outlets and officials have cited Israel since it occurred in 2007. (See ACT, October 2008.)
It is unclear why the Israeli government decided to acknowledge the attack now, although the timing may be tied to the movement by U.S. President Donald Trump toward abandoning the Iran nuclear accord, as advocated by Israel and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. intelligence community concluded in 2008 that Syria was constructing the reactor with North Korean assistance, possibly for a nuclear weapons program, in violation of its international legal commitments under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Syria did not declare the reactor to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which found the country in noncompliance with its safeguards commitments in 2011 after Syria refused to cooperate with the agency’s investigation. (See ACT, July/August 2011.)—KELSEY DAVENPORT