From South Africa’s Mail & Guardian, Sept. 17:
Israel has enforced a news blackout on what may be its air force’s most audacious raid since its jets destroyed Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor in 1981. The Israeli government has made no comment about the raid on what is believed to be a nuclear installation in Syria and Israeli newspapers have been forbidden to write anything on the subject.
When asked about the raid, Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, refused to provide details. “The security services and Israeli defence forces are demonstrating unusual courage. We naturally cannot always show the public our cards.”
Instead the details of the raid have been leaked to a series of foreign newspapers. According to the leaks, eight Israeli F-15 bombers entered Syrian airspace in the early hours of September 6. They successfully evaded Syrian radar and air defences and attacked a research establishment on the Euphrates river in northern Syria, destroying it completely.
Israeli intelligence believes that North Korea, which has provided missile technology to Syria in the past, has started supplying nuclear materials in recent months. On leaving Syria, the Israeli planes jettisoned their extra fuel tanks over Turkey.
While news of the raid spread rapidly through the Israeli defence, media and political circles, the government insisted on complete silence. According to Syria the Israeli planes flew into its airspace at supersonic speed from the Mediterranean. They were attacked by Syrian air defences and dropped their munitions which caused no damage and then left, Syria said.
Miri Eisin, the spokesperson for Olmert, reiterated the government line. “We do not respond to media speculation.”
See our last post on Israel, Syria, North Korea, and nuclear fear.
Israel killed North Koreans in raid, seized nuke material
Updated Sep 23, 2007 8:43
‘Commandos seized nuclear materials before air raid in Syria’
By JPOST.COM STAFF
Soldiers from an elite Israeli unit captured North Korean nuclear material from a secret Syrian military installation before IAF jets bombed the installation, a report by Britain’s Sunday Times wrote Saturday night, quoting “informed sources in Washington and Jerusalem.”
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who, according to the Times report, supervised the operation personally .
According to the sources, the alleged IAF attack was sanctioned by the US on September 6, after the Americans were given proof that the material was indeed nuclear related.
The sources confirmed that the materials were tested after they were taken from Syria and were found to be of North Korean origin, which raised concerns that Syria may have been trying to come into possession of nuclear arms.
The commandos, who, according to the report, belonged to the legendary General Staff’s Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal), may have been disguised in Syrian army uniforms. It also stated that Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who used to head the unit, personally oversaw the operation.
Israeli sources admitted that special forces had been accruing intelligence in Syria for several months, the report said, adding that evidence of North Korean activity at the installation was presented to President George Bush during the summer.
According to the Times, North Korea and China believed that North Koreans were among the dead in the subsequent alleged IAF air strike.
On Friday, the Washington Post reported that Israel and the United States had collaborated on intelligence ahead of the alleged IAF raid.
According to the Post report, Israel informed the US over the summer that North Korean personnel were in Syria to assist the country’s nuclear weapons program. The intelligence in question reportedly included satellite imagery.
Meanwhile, Newsweek quoted Binyamin Netanyahu adviser Uzi Arad in reference to the Syria operation. “I do know what happened, and when it comes out it will stun everyone,” he said.
Jane’s: Syrians and Iranians killed in July WMD lab explosion
Syria blast ‘linked to chemical weapons’: report
3 days ago
LONDON (AFP) — Iranian engineers were among those killed in a blast at a secret Syrian military installation two months ago, defence group Jane’s said Wednesday after claiming that the base was being used to develop chemical weapons.
The July 26 explosion in Aleppo, northern Syria, was reported at the time. The official Sana news agency said 15 Syrian military personnel were killed and 50 people were injured, most of them slightly from flying glass.
The agency said only that “very explosive products” blew up after fire broke out at the facility and that the blaze was not an act of sabotage.
But in the September 26 edition of Jane’s Defence Weekly, Syrian defence sources were quoted as saying the explosion happened during tests to weaponise a Scud C missile with mustard gas, which is banned under international law.
Fuel caught fire in a missile production laboratory and “dispersed chemical agents (including VX and Sarin nerve agents and mustard blister agent) across the storage facility and outside.
“Other Iranian engineers were seriously injured with chemical burns to exposed body parts not protected by safety overalls,” the publication quoted the sources as saying.
Among the dead were “dozens” of Iranian missile weaponisation engineers, it added.
The claims come as North Korea denied reports it was helping Syria develop nuclear weapons and intense speculation that a recent Israeli air raid on Syria may have targeted a joint nuclear project.
Jane’s said the regime in Damascus has since imposed a media black-out on the blast and had “destroyed” evidence that base was being used as a missile production site with Iranian help.
It also questioned the government’s claim that the explosion occurred because of a sudden rise in the ambient air temperature that caused a chemical reaction of sensitive and highly volatile substances.
One of its sources described the explanation as “implausible” because the blast happened at about 4:30 am, two hours before sunrise when temperatures were cool.
The article also quoted Syrian opposition sources as noting that vehicles destined for car bomb attacks in Iraq are prepared at the same facility under the supervision of Syrian intelligence and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Jane’s assessed that the incident confirmed information that the two countries have been involved in developing chemical weapons for more than two years under a strategic co-operation agreement.
It said Iran helped Syria in the planning, establishment and management of five facilities designed to develop chemical weapons on an industrial scale.
An Iranian chemical manufacturer, whose identity Jane’s said it knows and with connections to the Islamic republic’s defence industry, and a Syrian firm with links to the military have made a number of deals since 2004.
One of Jane’s sources said they involved the importation of “hundreds of tonnes of sodium sulphide, hydrochloric acid and ethylene glycol-MEG from Iran” which can be used to produce mustard gas and Sarin.