Jerusalem – Reports about the alleged entry of Israeli warplanes into Syria continued to proliferate. The London Sunday Times said Israel blew apart a Syrian nuclear cache, while the Observer asked in its headline whether the Israeli raid was a rehearsal for an attack on Iran.
According to the Sunday Times, shortly after midnight on Sept. 6, the 69th F-15I squadron crossed the Syrian coastline. At that time, the Shaldag commando unit of the Israel air force was already waiting at a rendezvous, in order to mark the target with laser beams for the approaching planes, the paper said. The group had arrived on the previous day and had taken up positions close to an underground storage facility. Within a short time the bunkers went up in flames, the Sunday Times reported.
The London newspaper Observer reported on the level of secrecy that obscured the operation, saying that even the air crews did not know what the target was when they set out on their mission. That paper noted that among all the rumors and speculations, it is a fact that two detachable fuel tanks were found near the Turkish border.
According to Turkish sources, the tanks were from an F-15I, which is the new generation of the long-range Israeli attack aircraft and has a range of over 1,500 miles. This makes it capable of attacking targets in Iran, the Observer notes.
The paper adds that this was not a minor infiltration. The Israelis penetrated Syrian air space by passing over territory of Israel’s ally, Turkey. It was a large-scale operation involving eight planes, F-16s as well as F-15Is, and they were armed with Maverick missiles and bombs weighing 400 pounds, the Observer added.
The British weekly also reveals that in addition to the Israeli planes, which flew at high altitudes, an electronic intelligence gathering plane was also flying overhead.
Both papers reported rumors that Israel believes that its planes destroyed a nuclear cache sent by North Korea. The Sunday Times stated that the official version, namely that the target of the attack consisted of munitions on their way to Hezbollah, did not hold up under the wave of rumors and speculation.
The Sunday Times quotes Israeli sources as saying that the preparations for the operation began at the end of the spring, when Mossad Director Meir Dagan submitted to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert evidence that Syria was trying to purchase nuclear weapons from North Korea. Dagan, the paper said, feared that when the time came, Syria would try to mount a nuclear warhead on North Korean-manufactured Scud-C missiles. Syria possesses between 60 and 120 Scud-Cs, which it bought from North Korea over the past 15 years, the paper said. It quotes an Israeli source as saying that this was to be a devastating surprise for Israel, adding that Israel has known for a long time that the Syrians already have deadly chemical warheads mounted on their Scud missiles, but Israel cannot live with the threat of nuclear warheads.
A source in the Israel Air Force told the Sunday Times that the Israeli spy satellite Ofek 7 has been moved from its customary station over Iran to over Syria. Ofek 7 sends high-quality photographs of the northeastern region of Syria every 90 minutes, and this made it easier for Israeli air force experts to locate the facility, which was officially described as an agricultural research center. The weekly adds that only three cabinet ministers knew about the operation: Olmert himself, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
The Sunday Times also reports that among the rumors current in Washington was one alleging that the Israeli air strike was intended to divert attention from a daring commando operation, in which a consignment of nuclear materials on its way to Iran and was taken to Israel. Others said the nuclear materials were destroyed in the Israeli attack.
Director Of IDF Intelligence: ‘Israel’s Power Of Deterrence Has Been Restored’
On Sunday, Director of Israeli Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin refrained from commenting on the wave of reports in the international media about an Israeli attack on northern Syria.
However, he did have a short and simple message: Israel has restored its power of deterrence against Syria.
Yadlin did not explain to the committee members just how this was restored, especially as at the beginning of the meeting, the chairman, Tzahi Hanegbi, announced that the Syrian issue would not be discussed.
Yadlin said that senior Iranian officials are now hinting openly for the first time about the strategic and military ramifications of their nuclear policy and have already been including Iran in the exclusive club of nuclear countries. He noted that Iran has been relaying to the world a number of messages on the nuclear issue: Iran has crossed the threshold for preparing a bomb, the sanctions by the West have not stopped the Iranian nuclear project and the price to be paid for a military clash with Iran will be very high, as the Iranians have both military deterrent means and terror.
The Iranians, stressed Yadlin, have about 3,000 centrifuges for enriching uranium. In order to produce a sufficient quantity of uranium for one nuclear bomb, all the centrifuges must work without malfunctioning for an entire year. “As of now the Iranians have not overcome the malfunctions. They want to gain time and are making huge efforts to return the ‘Iranian file’ from the U.N. Security Council to the International Atomic Energy Agency, so they can continue to drag things out.
Fear Terror Boat
In wake of the incident in Syria, it is feared that terror organizations will carry out a large-scale terror attack on holiday ships filled with Israeli tourists sailing along the Mediterranean coast.
Yesterday, a senior Israeli security official confirmed that in wake of the events a week and a half ago, various terror organizations have increased their attempts to carry out a large-scale quality terror attack. One option they are examining is a large-scale terror attack at sea, using a ship filled with explosives that would crash into an Israeli passenger ship sailing along the Mediterranean coast.
“We have warnings about plans by terror organizations to carry out various terror attacks abroad,” explained a senior official on Sunday. “One possibility is a terror attack using a disguised boat or ship filled with explosives.”
In wake of the warnings, security for Israeli holiday ships was increased. The security official added that the sailing channels will be changed and ships will increase the number of their security guards: “There are various warnings: booby-trapped boats, or boats that will try to fire explosives at passengers, etc. Just as we increase the manpower when there are warnings against a military force or at embassies abroad, we also do this for ships at sea. This Sukkot holiday many Israelis will go on cruises from Haifa and Ashdod, and we must guarantee that these ships are safe.”
Despite the alert, sources in the Israel Bureau of Counter-Terrorism told the media on Sunday that as of now there are no concrete warnings: “There are always plans by Islamic Jihad to attack ships. In the past two years, there were two attempts to attack Israeli holiday ships off the coast of Turkey. Al-Qaida had put them in their gun sights since they are full of hundreds of Israelis and are an attractive target for a terror attack.”
David Bedein can be reached at Media@actcom.co.il. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2007