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.
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, 450 kilometers (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 and Syria have always been bitter enemies. Throughout Syria's seven-year civil war, Israel has carried out well over 100 airstrikes, most believed to have been aimed at suspected weapons shipments destined for the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group. Both Iran and Hezbollah are allied with Syrian President Bashar Assad.
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. It was ordered to be kept secret until further notice.
The strike was reminiscent of an Israeli attack against a reactor that was under construction in Iraq in 1981. The strike was later credited with preventing Saddam Hussein from acquiring weapons of mass destruction that could have been used in the Gulf War a decade later.