Syria Israel graphic 224.
(photo credit: Rendering by Jonathan Beck)
A few days after an Israeli reporter entered Syria using a foreign passport and published pictures of himself outside what he said was the site attacked by the IAF in a September 6 air strike, Syrian officials told foreign journalists on Monday that reports of the raid were spurious.
New York Times reporter Hugh Naylor was one of a group shepherded around the Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands in Deir ez Zor, a Beduin village in eastern Syria.
Center director Ahmed Mehdi denied not only that the facility was involved in any nuclear weapons program, but also that any IAF raid had ever occurred. "The allegations are completely groundless, and I don't really understand where all this [WMD] talk came from," Mehdi said.
"There was no raid here - we heard nothing," he added.
"You see - around us are farmers, corn, produce, nothing else," Mehdi told the visitors.
Yediot Aharonot reporter Ron Ben-Yishai, whose successful entry into Syria worried Syrian authorities, took pictures of himself in front of the research center's sign, but was denied access to the premises.
Israel has kept the details of the air strike secret, refusing until last week to even confirm that such a mission had been carried out. Reports said that the strike had been executed in tandem with a ground operation by IDF special forces, who reportedly confiscated weapons-related materials shortly before IAF planes attacked.
A recent article in The Washington Post said that the raid came after Israel and the United States shared intelligence about possible nuclear weapons developments in Syria. According to some sources, North Korean weapons experts had been in Syria in the months ahead of the raid.
While both Syria and North Korea have denied that they are cooperating on weapons development, representatives of the two nations met recently in North Korea to discuss "strengthening ties."