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Israel attacks Syria

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Israel is bracing itself for reprisals after reportedly attacking Syria in a daring air and ground assault. Reports claim Israel targeted a nuclear facility hidden in the Syrian desert.


It is thought it may have been acting on intelligence that North Korea was shipping nuclear weapons facilities to help Syria build the bomb.


North Korea has denied allegations that it may be helping Syria.


The details of the raids are a closely guarded secret. Israel has enforced strict censorship rules on its media and banned even the most senior officials from discussing the raid.


But a picture is emerging through briefings by American government officials and other sources.


On September 3, reports claim, Israeli intelligence picked up a North Korean ship unloading nuclear materials at the Syrian port of Tartous.


It's thought that then Israeli ground forces were sent into north eastern Syria to target a site believed to be a nuclear facility.


Twenty four hours later Israeli jets reportedly entered Syrian airspace at supersonic speed, before bombing and destroying the facility.


"Israel is beginning to find itself surrounded by enemies that are pursuing nuclear power," says The Jerusalem Post's defence analyst Yaacov Katz , "and if this strike is preventing Syria from obtaining that power then this is a big deal."


The North Korean nuclear scenario is not the only interpretation of events in the information vacuum following the incident. But it seems to have the most adherents.


Others suggest it was a dummy run for a strike on Iran's nuclear installations.


Air force sources reportedly say a trial run on those targets would not be necessary. But the raid has less direct implications for Iran nevertheless.


"It's quite obvious here that the next year is about Iran and its nuclear capabilities," Alon Ben-David, intelligence analyst with Israel's Channel 10 told me.


He believes the raid on Syria shows Israel is prepared to strike targets on an enemy's sovereign territory even if it risks war doing so.


The risk of war explains Israel's refusal to publicly admit what it has done. That could force Syria's hand and give it no option but to go to war with Israel.


Thus far Syria has only admitted Israel breached its airspace but insists it did not bomb anywhere, merely dumping its munitions instead.


"All this rubbish is not true. I don't know how their imagination has reached such creativity," Syrian official Bouthaina Shaaban said of the reports of Syrian-North Korean nuclear co-operation.


But Syria has warned it will respond to the incursion into its territory.


It will avoid anything that would risk war. But Damascus will be seeking alternatives that restore some of its lost dignity now that Israel has so boldly seized the initiative.

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