The Israeli military admitted Wednesday it was responsible for a 2007 airstrike that destroyed a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor.
Israel said the facility in the Deir al-Zour region was close to becoming active when it sent a group of fighter jets on a top-secret mission. Wednesday’s disclosure included the release of declassified cockpit video said to show the airstrike as well as photos connected to the operation.
Syria has denied it was building a nuclear reactor at the site.
The U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency said in 2011 the facility was “very likely” a nuclear reactor.
Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said the airstrike serves as a warning that Israel will not allow certain activities that affect its security.
“The message from the 2007 attack on the reactor is that Israel will not tolerate construction that can post an existential threat,” he said. “This was the message in 1981, this is the message in 2007 and this is the future message to our enemies.”
Israel also carried out a 1981 strike against a reactor under construction in Iraq.
More recently it has conducted numerous airstrikes in Syria largely believed to be aimed at preventing supplies from reaching the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon. The military does not comment on those strikes, just as it had kept the 2007 attack somewhat mysterious despite the widespread assumption that it was responsible.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also in recent years been adamant that Iran not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons, saying that would post an existential threat to Israel.
Iran denies its nuclear work involved developing nuclear weapons, and in 2015 signed an agreement with Britain, China, France, Russia, Germany and the United States to limit its nuclear activity to allay those fears in exchange for sanctions relief.
Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump have been sharp critics of the agreement, saying Iran gave up too little while getting too much in return.