iaf planes 298 88 idf.
(photo credit: IDF)
The secret IAF foray into Syrian airspace was in fact an Israeli air strike directly linked to a North Korean shipment of suspected nuclear material which was delivered to Syria three days before the attack, the Washington Post reported on Saturday.
According to the report, the ship arrived on September 3 in the Syrian port of Tartus. On September 6, the Post report claimed that the IAF attacked an "agricultural research center" which Israel believed was a facility used by the Syrians to extract uranium from phosphates.
The report quoted an anonymous source who said that he received his information from Israelis who participated in the attack. According to that source, Israel took significant measures to protect the secrecy of the mission, briefing only those pilots who actually carried out the strike, and not the pilots of the planes providing cover. Further, the pilots who were involved in the attack were only told details after they had already taken off.
However, on Saturday Syria denied these reports, and claimed that nothing in Syria was bombed by the IAF, and nothing was damaged.
Reports of such an attack are "ridiculous and not true," Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Ja'afari said. Ja'afari added that "Syria does not have North Korean nuclear facilities."
Syrian Ambassador to the US Imad Moustapha told Newsweek that Israel would pay for its operation, Army Radio reported.
Speculation over the IAF foray into Syrian territory has been the subject of considerable debate since news of the mission broke last week.
On Friday, a senior US nuclear official said that the North Koreans were in Syria and Damascus may have had contacts with "secret suppliers" to obtain nuclear equipment.
Andrew Semmel, acting deputy assistant secretary of state for nuclear nonproliferation policy, did not name the suppliers, but said there were North Koreans in Syria and that he could not exclude that the network run by disgraced Pakistan nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan may have been involved.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that Israel had gathered satellite imagery showing possible North Korean cooperation with Syria on a nuclear facility.
Semmel, who is in Italy for a meeting Saturday on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, said that Syria was certainly on the US nuclear "watch list."
"There are indicators that they do have something going on there," he said. "We do know that there are a number of foreign technicians that have been in Syria. We do know that there may have been contact between Syria and some secret suppliers for nuclear equipment. Whether anything transpired remains to be seen."
"So good foreign policy, good national security policy, would suggest that we pay very close attention to that," he said. "We're watching very closely. Obviously, the Israelis were watching very closely."
Asked if the suppliers could have been North Koreans, he said: "There are North Korean people there. There's no question about that. Just as there are a lot of North Koreans in Iraq and Iran."
Asked if the so-called Khan network, which supplied nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea, could have been involved, he said he "wouldn't exclude" it.