Over a decade after the fact, Israel admits responsibility for destroying a suspected nuclear reactor in northeastern Syria. The IDF Military Censor has just recently cleared this for publication though the foreign press and the memoirs of former President George W. Bush and vice president Dick Cheney had already confirmed the details. According to the Jerusalem Post the Mossad had confirmed the existence of the reactor as of March 2007 via photographs of the reactor which was being built in the Deir al-Zor province near Euphrates River.
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IDF Military Intelligence Directorate had requested the pictures, they had suspected Damascus may have been attempting a "rogue" nuclear program. Military Intelligence caught the reactor being constructed via satellite scans. Since the suspected reactor looked like an ordinary building it was not immediately determined to be a threat until then head of Military Intelligence convinced the chief of the Mossad to send agents to obtain more intelligence.
Former Defense Minister Amir Peretz admitted that the situation posed "dilemmas" both military and diplomatic.
The pictures had been requested by the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, which had suspicions that Damascus was engaging in rogue nuclear activity. In an interview, Peretz told the Jerusalem Post that his first meeting regarding the facility at which point top Israeli officials decided to destroy the facility. At this point prime minister Ehud Olmert attempted to recruit President Bush to destroy the building, but when then President George W. Bush declined Olmert and his security cabinet finally decided they must destroy the structure.
<blockquote>“It was a threat that we couldn’t live with,” one member of the security cabinet at the time told the Post. “Syria with nuclear weapons would have posed an existential threat to the State of Israel.”</blockquote>
When Fox News made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Israel was informed. At this point, the security cabinet feared that knowledge of the strike could be made public. At this point all ministers voted to strike, apart from the Public Security Minister Ava Dichter who abstained from voting.
Meanwhile, Fox News requested information on the reactor from the Pentagon under the US Freedom of Information Act. Israel was informed of the request. Fearing a leak to the media would lead to the operation being compromised, the security cabinet deliberated on the strike one final time on September 5. According to The New Yorker magazine, all ministers voted to strike, with the exception of Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, who abstained.
Following the meeting, Olmert, Barak and then-foreign minister Tzipi Livni were given the green light to decide the final characteristics of the attack. They then withdrew to a side room where IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi recommended carrying out the strike that night. It was just before midnight September 5, 2007 that pilots called out "Arizona" the codename for the operation which was the signal to drop 17 tons of bombs on the building to thoroughly destroy it.