Israel on Wednesday admitted it bombed a suspected Syrian nuclear facility 11 years ago, and Israeli offials used the confirmation to boast about their country's military might and again threaten Iran.
"The message from the 2007 attack on the reactor is that Israel will not tolerate construction that can pose an existential threat," military chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said in a statement. "This was the message in 1981 [when Israel bombed a nuclear plant in Baghdad,], this is the message in 2007, and this is the future message to our enemies."
The overnight operation dubbed "Outside the Box" took place from Sept. 5-6, 2007, when F16s and F15s carried out the airstrikes against what the U.S. and Israel say was a reactor built with help from North Korea.
Israel—a nuclear-armed power but not a signatory of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—argues that the facility in Syria's Deir ez-Zor region was "in its last stages of construction." Syria, which is a party to the treaty, has denied it was building a reactor.
As with its United Nations Security Council-condemned strike on the Iraqi facility, Israel argued that purpose of the Syrian facility was to produce a bomb.
According to James Jeffrey, George W. Bush's deputy national security adviser, the U.S. president backed the attack at the time.
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"(He) made it clear that we were very happy that events had eliminated this threat and that if there were any threats to Israel that would emerge from this situation, the United States would stand with Israel, period," Jeffrey said Wednesday.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday used the admission to threaten the entire region.
"The motivation of our enemies increased in recent years, but so did the strength of the IDF. Air Force and intelligence capabilities intensified and expanded [vastly] from the capabilities we had in 2007," Liberman said. "Everyone in the Middle East would do well to internalize this equation."
Another minister, Israel Katz, also tweeted out a not-so-veiled threat: "The courageous decision of the Israeli government almost 11 years ago to destroy the nuclear reactor in Syria and the successful operation following it sends a clear message: Israel will never allow nuclear weapons to countries like Iran who threaten its existence."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has continues to argue without proof that Iran is on its way to producing nuclear bombs, said: "The Government of Israel, the IDF, and the Mossad prevented Syria from developing a nuclear capability. For this they are deserving of all praise. Israel's policy has been and remains consistent—to prevent our enemies from arming themselves with nuclear weapons."