Amos Yadlin 224.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Israel's deterrence against Syria and Iran has been reestablished since the Second Lebanon War, OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin told a Knesset panel Sunday.
"[Israeli deterrence] is having an impact on the whole region, including on Iran and Syria," Yadlin said during his intelligence briefing to the legislature's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
It was the only mention that Yadlin made of Syria during the meeting, maintaining the veil of secrecy that Israeli officials cast since Israel Air Force jets allegedly flew over northern Syria in the morning hours of September 6.
American officials confirmed the air force raid last week, and foreign news reports have suggested that Israel struck a Syrian site that contained nonconventional arms, possibly nuclear weapons from North Korea.
Committee chairman MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) said prior to Sunday's hearing that he had instructed Yadlin to avoid any mention of Syria.
On Sunday, the foreign media continued to provide new information on the alleged IAF strike. The Israeli media is still barred from revealing details of the alleged operation by the military censor.
According to the Sunday Times of London, preparations for the alleged attack on the Syrian nuclear installation began six months ago, after Mossad chief Meir Dagan presented Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with intelligence indicating that Syria was pursuing a nuclear capability.
He warned then that if the program was successful, Syria would be able to mount nuclear warheads on Scud-C missiles already in its arsenal.
"This was supposed to be a devastating Syrian surprise for Israel," the Sunday Times quoted an Israeli source as saying. "We've known for a long time that Syria has deadly chemical warheads on its Scuds, but Israel can't live with a nuclear warhead."
A force from the IAF's elite Shaldag commando unit was positioned at an underground depot near the Syrian base, to direct laser beams at the target to guide the Israeli planes, according to the report.
According to an IAF source quoted in the report, Israel's Ofek 7 satellite, launched in June, was diverted from above Iran toward Syria to collect intelligence on the target site.
The satellite transmitted high-quality images of northeast Syria every 90 minutes, according to the report.
The Russian ambassador to Damascus, Sergei Kirpichenko, warned Syrian President Bashar Assad last month that Israel was planning an attack, but suggested that the target was near the Golan Heights and not the nuclear facility, the Sunday Times reported.
Only three Israeli cabinet ministers - Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni - knew of the planned attack, the report continued. The Americans were also consulted and, according to Israeli sources quoted in the newspaper, US Air Force codes were provided to the IAF attachÃ© in Washington to ensure Israel's F-15I aircraft did not mistakenly attack American aircraft.
According to Britain's Observer newspaper, as many as eight F-15I and F-16I fighter jets participated in the operation. The planes, the paper said, were equipped with Maverick missiles and 500-pound (227-kilogram) bombs. Escorting the pilots at high altitude was an ELINT (electronic intelligence) gathering aircraft.
Also on Sunday, one of Damascus's largest state-owned dailies raised the possibility that US intimations of Syrian nuclear cooperation with North Korea might be a prelude to a future attack on Syria.
The comment, published in an editorial in Al-Thawra, came two days after a senior US nuclear official said there were North Koreans in Syria and that Damascus might have had contacts with "secret suppliers" to obtain nuclear equipment.
Al-Thawra predicted that more such allegations could well be on their way. "The magnitude of these false accusations might be a prelude to a new aggression against Syria," the daily said.
The newspaper called the suggestions of atomic cooperation "a flagrant lie" and said Syria had repeatedly asked the international community to disarm Israel of its nuclear weapons, calling for a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.
He also noted the unusual wall-to-wall official Israeli silence. "Israel told the US about this. But Israel is keeping quiet. And if Israel is keeping quiet, that must be big," he said.
Over the weekend, The Washington Post reported that the alleged IAF raid was aimed at a facility in northern Syria, close to the Turkish border, and that it may have been linked to the recent arrival there of a shipment from North Korea labeled as cement, but believed by Israel to contain nuclear equipment.
According to the Washington Post, Israel had been keeping an eye on the facility, which is officially characterized by the Syrians as an agricultural research center. The suspicious shipment arrived at the Syrian port of Tartus on September 3, three days before the reported IAF raid.
Yadlin focused Sunday's Knesset briefing on Iran, saying senior Iranian officials are beginning to break their silence about the nature of their nuclear program.
"The Iranians are giving multiple messages to the world," said Yadlin. "One, that they've crossed the point of no return - they are already in the club of those who know how to produce nuclear power. Two, the sanctions will not help to stop that, and they are continuing [with their program]. Three, the price of a confrontation with [Iran] will be too great."
Yadlin quoted Ali Larijani, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, as stating "that Iran had enough centrifuges to create a bomb, but that a bomb was not so important to the Iranians now, since America could destroy Iran."
According to Yadlin, the Iranians are unhappy with the UN Security Council's monitoring of their nuclear program, and are hoping to have responsibility for the oversight process returned to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
"The Iranians want their case returned to the IAEA, because if that happens, the Iranians will be able to control the time schedule," Yadlin said. "They will be able to provide partial answers, and to delay the process."
He added that the Security Council sanctions were not having much of an impact on Teheran, and that the Iranian people continued to support their government's nuclear program.
The Iranian people are only critical of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's economic policies, Yadlin said.
Turning to the Palestinians, Yadlin told the committee that Hamas's leadership was pushing for a large terrorist attack before November's international Middle East conference in Washington.
AP contributed to the report.