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Operation Orchard[1][2] was an Israeli airstrike on a target in the Deir ez-Zor region[3] of Syria carried out just after midnight on September 6, 2007.


According to news reports, the raid was carried out by the Israeli Air Force's 69th Squadron of F-15Is,[4] F-16s, and an ELINT aircraft; a total of as many as eight aircraft.


The fighters were equipped with AGM-65 Maverick missiles, 500lb bombs, and external fuel tanks.[1][5] One report indicated that a team of IAF Shaldag commandos arrived at the site the day before so that they could highlight the target with laser beams.[6]


Israeli F-15I from the 69th Squadron.


Pre-strike activity

ABC News reported that the Mossad "managed to either co-opt one of the facility's workers or to insert a spy posing as an employee" at the suspected Syrian nuclear site, and through this was able to get pictures of the target from on the ground.[7]

According to The Sunday Times, members of Israel's Sayeret Matkal covertly raided the suspected Syrian nuclear facility before the September 6 airstrike and brought nuclear material back to Israel. Once the material was tested and confirmed to have come from North Korea, the US gave Israel approval for an attack.[8]


However, another report indicated that Israel planned to attack the site as early as July 14, but some US officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, preferred a public condemnation of Syria, thereby delaying the military strike until Israel feared the information would leak to the press.[9]


The Times also reports that the mission was "personally directed" by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.


Radar detection

According to Aviation Week and Space Technology, US industry and military sources speculated that the Israelis may have used technology similar to the U.S.' Suter airborne network attack system to allow their planes to pass undetected by radar into Syria.


This would make it possible to feed enemy radar emitters with false targets, and even directly manipulate enemy sensors.


Syria is reported to have two new state-of-the art Russian radar systems, suspected to be the Tor-M1 and Pachora-2A.[10][11]






September 6, 2007


Deir ez-Zor region, Syria
35°42′28″N, 39°50′01″E


Indecisive, outcome unclear


Israeli Air Force



F-15I fighters
F-16 fighters
1 ELINT aircraft
Total: As many as 8 aircraft

Unknown numbers of radar and Anti-aircraft artillery of the Syrian Air Defence Forces


None Reported

CNN first reported that the airstrike targeted weapons "destined for Hezbollah militants" and that the strike "left a big hole in the desert".[12]


On September 13 The Washington Post reported that U.S. and Israeli intelligence gathered information on a nuclear facility constructed in Syria with North Korean aid, and that the target was a "facility capable of making unconventional weapons".[13]


According to The Sunday Times, the target was a cache of nuclear materials from North Korea.[6]


A North Korean ship had docked in Syria just a few days earlier,[14] and after the strike North Korea publicly condemned the raid; North Korea rarely comments on international events.[15] The ship was later identified as the Al Hamed, a 1,700-tonne cargo ship that was previously owned by a North Korean business.


The ship registered itself as South Korean when it travelled through the Suez canal and docked at the Syrian port Tartous on July 28. It returned on September 3, when it was said to have unloaded cement. Records do not indicate where the vessel is as of September 17.[16]

This reporting was challenged on September 24 by The Raw Story, which said that US intelligence officials told them that the actual target were North Korean No-Dong missiles. According to the report, the missiles were an "older generation" that Syria was attempting to "chemically weaponize".[17]

Syrian Vice-President Faruq Al Shara announced on September 30 that the Israeli target was The Arab Center for the Studies of Arid zones and Dry lands, but the center itself immediately denied this.[18] The following day Syrian President Bashar al-Assad described the bombing target as an "incomplete and empty military complex that was still under construction".


He did not provide any further details about the nature of the structure or its purpose.[19]

On September 28 the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Jareeda reported that Iranian general Ali Reza Asgari, who disappeared in February, was the source for the airstrike.[20]

On 14 October The New York Times cited US and Israeli military intelligence sources saying that the target had been a nuclear reactor under construction by North Korean technicians, with a number of the technicians having been killed in the strike.[21]



Syria first responded by saying that its anti-aircraft weapons had fired at Israeli planes, which bombed empty areas in the desert,[22] or later, unused military buildings.[23]


On September 7-8 Turkish media reported finding Israeli fuel tanks in Hatay and Gaziantep Province, and the Turkish Foreign Minister lodged a formal protest with the Israeli envoy.[22][24]


Israel did not comment on the incident, although Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did say that,

"The security services and Israeli defense forces are demonstrating unusual courage. We naturally cannot always show the public our cards."[25]

Israeli papers were banned from doing their own reporting on the airstrike.[26] On September 16 the head of Aman, Amos Yadlin, told a parliamentary committee that Israel regained its "deterrent capability."[27]


US Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked if North Korea was helping Syria in the nuclear realm, but replied only that,

"we are watching the North Koreans very carefully. We watch the Syrians very carefully."[28]

The first public acknowledgment by an Israeli official came on September 19 when opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said that he had backed the operation and congratulated Prime Minister Olmert.[29]


Netanyahu advisor Uzi Arad later told Newsweek,

"I do know what happened, and when it comes out it will stun everyone."[30]

On September 17 Prime Minister Olmert announced that he was ready to make peace with Syria,

"without preset conditions and without ultimatums".[31]

According to a poll done by the Dahaf Research Institute, Olmert's approval rating rose from 25% to 35% after the airstrike.[32]

On October 2, 2007 the IDF confirmed the attack took place, following a request by Haaretz to lift censorship; however, the IDF continued to censor details of the actual strike force and its target.[33]

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz opined "we can safely say that behind the successful blackout campaign lies an enormous failure" namely the failure to provoke Assad into a military response:

"whoever expected him to respond to the operation in a military operation was wrong. "[34]



It is reported that the nearly one million customers of Yes, Israel's only satellite television provider, have had poor reception since September 6th, 2007.


Further, the provider has not been able to troubleshoot the problem. The Israeli government alleges that the origin of the poor reception is the activity of,

"the Dutch and German ships of the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon."

No explanation is given why the ships activity did not affect reception prior to September 6th.[35]

On October 10, 2007 The New York Times reported that the Israelis had shared the Syrian strike dossier with Turkey. In turn the Turks traveled to Damascus and confronted the Syrians with the dossier alleging a nuclear program. The Syrian denied this with vigor saying that the target was a storage depot for strategic missiles.[36]

On October 25, 2007 The New York Times reported that two commercial satellite photos taken before and after the raid showed that a square building no longer exists at the suspected site.[37]


Satellite images from Aug. 10 and Oct. 24 by DigitalGlobe
Satellite imagery of a facility in Syria collected on August 10, 2007, left, and October 24, right.


On October 27, 2007 The New York Times reported that the imaging company Geoeye released an image of the building from September 16, 2003, and from this security analyst John Pike estimated that construction began in 2001.


A "senior intelligence official" also told the Times that the US has observed the site for years by spy satellite.[38]


A satellite photo from Sept. 16, 2003, shows a large structure being built near a site in Syria that was bombed last month by Israel.








  1. Beaumont, Peter. "Was Israeli raid a dry run for attack on Iran?", The Observer, 2007-09-16.
  2. Stephens, Bret. "Osirak II?", The Wall Street Journal, 2007-09-18.
  3. "Officials say Israel raid on Syria triggered by arms fears", Reuters, 2007-09-12.
  4. Mahnaimi, Uzi. "Israelis ‘blew apart Syrian nuclear cache’", The Sunday Times, 2007-09-16.
  5. "Turkish FM slams Israel over fuel tanks", The Jerusalem Post, 2007-09-10.
  6. Mahnaimi, Uzi. "Israelis ‘blew apart Syrian nuclear cache’", The Sunday Times, 2007-09-16.
  7. Raddatz, Martha. "EXCLUSIVE: The Case for Israel's Strike on Syria", ABC News, 2007-10-19.
  8. Mahnaimi, Uzi. "Snatched: Israeli commandos ‘nuclear’ raid", The Sunday Times, 2007-09-23.
  9. "Report: US stalled IAF raid in Syria fearing ME destabilization", The Jerusalem Post, 2007-10-06.
  10. Fulghum, David A.. "Why Syria's Air Defenses Failed to Detect Israelis", Aviation Week & Space Technology, 2007-10-03.
  11. Fulghum, David A.. "Israel used electronic attack in air strike against Syrian mystery target", Aviation Week & Space Technology, 2007-10-08.
  12. "Syria complains to U.N. about Israeli airstrike", CNN, 2007-09-11.
  13. Kessler, Glenn. "N. Korea, Syria May Be at Work on Nuclear Facility", The Washington Post, 2007-09-13.
  14. Melman, Yossi. "Records on N. Korean ship docked in Syria were altered", Haaretz, 2007-09-17.
  15. Kessler, Glenn. "Syria-N. Korea Reports Won't Stop Talks", The Washington Post, 2007-09-15.
  16. Butcher, Tim. "N Korean ship 'linked to Israel's strike on Syria'", The Daily Telegraph, 2007-09-17.
  17. Alexandrovna, Larisa. "Israeli air strike did not hit nuclear facility, intelligence officials say", The Raw Story, 2007-09-24.
  18. "Arab League center denies it was Israeli raid target", Middle East Times, 2007-09-30.
  19. "Assad sets conference conditions", BBC, 2007-10-01.
  20. "Report: Defecting Iranian official gave info before alleged Syrian foray", The Jerusalem Post, 2007-09-28.
  21. Sanger, David. "Israel Struck Syrian Nuclear Project, Analysts Say", The New York Times, 2007-10-14.
  22. "Turkey Asks Israel About Fuel Tanks", AP, 2007-09-09.
  23. "Israel admits air strike on Syria", BBC. 
  24. "Turkey complains to Israel over fuel tanks found near border with Syria: reports", AP, 2007-09-09.
  25. Urquhart, Conal. "Speculation flourishes over Israel's strike on Syria", The Guardian, 2007-09-17.
  26. Harel, Amos. "ANALYSIS: Mummed media base IAF strike reports on world press", Haaretz, 2007-09-16.
  27. "Israel says deterrent ability recovered after Syria strike", AFP, 2007-09-16.
  28. "Speculation heats up over what Israel hit in Syria", AFP, 2007-09-16.
  29. "Netanyahu says Israel carried out Syria air raid, he backed it", AFP, 2007-09-19.
  30. Ephron, Dan. "The Whispers of War", Newsweek, 2007-10-01.
  31. "Olmert says he is ready to make peace with Syria", The Jerusalem Post, 2007-09-17.
  32. "Mysterious airstrike in northern Syria boosts Olmert's popularity: Poll", The Jerusalem Post, 2007-09-18.
  33. Oren, Amir. "IDF lifts censorship on air strike against Syria target", Haaretz, 2007-10-02.
  34. The consistency of error Haaretz 03/10/2007 The consistency of error By Amir Oren
  35. UN ships disrupt Israeli satellite TV, Oct 10 05:37 AM US/Eastern
  36. An Israeli Strike on Syria Kindles Debate in the U.S. By MARK MAZZETTI and HELENE COOPER Published: October 10, 2007
  37. Satellite Photos Show Cleansing of Suspect Syrian Site By William J. Broad Published: October 26, 2007
  38. Broad, William, Mark Mazzetti. "Yet Another Photo of Site in Syria, Yet More Questions", The New York Times, 2007-10-27.