EXCLUSIVE: The Case for Israel's Strike on Syria
Official: Air Attack Targeted Nascent Nuclear Facility Built With North
By MARTHA RADDATZ ABC NewsOct. 19, 2007-
Israeli officials believed that a target their forces bombed inside Syria
last month was a nuclear facility, because they had detailed photographs
taken by a possible spy inside the complex, ABC News has learned.
The Bush administration has steadfastly refused to say anything about the
Israeli raid on Syria, or to confirm what was hit. But ABC News has learned
of the apparent mole and other dramatic and secret details about the events
leading up to the airstrike, plus the evidence that supported it.
A senior U.S. official told ABC News the Israelis first discovered a
suspected Syrian nuclear facility early in the summer, and the Mossad -
Israel's intelligence agency - managed to either co-opt one of the
facility's workers or to insert a spy posing as an employee.
As a result, the Israelis obtained many detailed pictures of the facility
from the ground.
The official said the suspected nuclear facility was approximately 100 miles
from the Iraqi border, deep in the desert along the Euphrates River. It was
a place, the official said, "where no one would ever go unless you had a
reason to go there."
But the hardest evidence of all was the photographs.
The official described the pictures as showing a big cylindrical structure,
with very thick walls all well-reinforced. The photos show rebar hanging out
of the cement used to reinforce the structure, which was still under
There was also a secondary structure and a pump station, with trucks around
it. But there was no fissionable material found because the facility was not
The official said there was a larger structure just north of a small pump
station; a nuclear reactor would need a constant source of water to keep it
The official said the facility was a North Korean design in its
construction, the technology present and the ability to put it all together.
It was North Korean "expertise," said the official, meaning the Syrians must
have had "human" help from North Korea.
A light water reactor designed by North Koreans could be constructed to
specifically produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.
When the Israelis came to the CIA with the pictures, the U.S. then got the
site's coordinates and backed it up with very detailed satellite imagery of
its own, and pinpointed "drop points" to determine what would be needed to
The Israelis urged the U.S. government to destroy the complex, and the U.S.
started looking at options about how to destroy the facility: Targeters were
assembled, and officials contemplated a special forces raid using
helicopters, which would mean inserting forces to collect data and then blow
the site up.
That option would have been very daring, the official says, because of the
distance from the border and the amount of explosives it would take to take
down the facility.
The options were considered, but according to the official, word came back
from the White House that the United States was not interested in carrying
out the raid.
But as ABC News reported in July, the Israelis made the decision to take the
facility out themselves, though the U.S. urged them not to. The Bush
administration, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense
Secretary Robert Gates leading the way, said the Israelis and the U.S.
should "confront not attack."
The official said the facility had been there at least eight months before
the strike, but because of the lack of fissionable material, the United
States hesitated on the attack because it couldn't be absolutely proved that
it was a nuclear site.
But the official told ABC News, "It was unmistakable what it was going to
be. There is no doubt in my mind."