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Channel 1: IAF Struck Syria, NY Times: N. Korean Nukes Targeted

F-15i jets attacked Deir Ez-Zour in east Syria; CNN reports Hizbullah weapons may have been the target, while NYTimes says it was N. Korean nukes.
By Gil Ronen and Ezra HaLevi
First Publish: 9/11/2007, 10:35 PM / Last Update: 9/12/2007, 9:15 AM

Israeli TV Channel 1 said Tuesday that the IDF "definitely carried out an attack" against Syria last Thursday. The attack was significant, the channel's military affairs reporter said, and was probably carried out against a large and important target that justified taking this kind of extreme action at such a sensitive time in Israeli-Syrian relations.

The target hit was in the Deir Ez-Zour region in eastern Syria, near the Euphrates river. The attack was carried out by Israel Air Force (IAF) F-15i jets (The 'i' stands for 'Israel'), referred to in Hebrew as Ra'am, or 'thunder.'  Anti-aircraft fire from the ground was ineffective, Channel 1 said.

NY Times: N. Korean Nukes Possible Target
The New York Times reported more details Wednesday, saying American officials confirmed the strike. It went on to quote a Bush administration official who suggested that the target of the bombing may have been a nuclear installation.

The official said Israel had recently carried out reconnaissance flights over Syria, taking pictures of possible nuclear installations that Israeli officials believed might have been supplied with material from North Korea. “The Israelis think North Korea is selling to Iran and Syria what little they have left,” the official said.

North Korea did make a rare foray into Middle East political analysis Tuesday, with its Foreign Ministry Spokesman telling the Chinese Xinhua News Agency that the Israeli entry to Syrian airspace was a "dangerous provocation that violates Syria's sovereignty and severely damages regional peace and security."

"Israeli propaganda"
Syria denies a report by CNN that IDF ground troops also participated in the operation. "This is absolutely not true," Syria's ambassador to the UN, Bashar al-Jaafari, said.

He claimed the report is Israeli propaganda aimed at conveying the perception that Israel can insert ground troops anywhere it wants. "Israel is seeking military escalation," he said. "We are exerting efforts so that we don't fall into this trap. We are dealing with the matter with utmost keenness, precision and responsibility."

Syria has lodged a complaint with the United Nations about the event, but has not asked for a Security Council debate on the matter. Its state-controlled media is downplaying the incident.

CNN reported Tuesday that the Israeli airstrike inside Syria last week may have been targeting weapons that were earmarked for Hizbullah fighters, citing "sources in the region and in the United States."

The sources told CNN that the military operation "may have also involved Israeli ground forces" wh
The air strike "left a big hole in the desert" in Syria.
o directed the air strike which "left a big hole in the desert" in Syria.

Israeli Government Happy
"The Israeli government is very happy with the success of the operation," the sources told CNN. Israeli reporters noted that IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi was smiling broadly at a function held on the evening after the attack and saw this as evidence that the attack had gone well.

Sources in the U.S. government and military said that "they are happy to have Israel carry the message to both Syria and Iran that [Israel] can get in and out and strike when necessary."

The 25 F-15i planes that have been operational in the IAF since 1999 were procured first and foremost for dealing with the Iranian threat. The F-15i's advanced systems include an APG-70 radar with terrain mapping capability which makes it possible to locate targets that are otherwise very hard to find, i.e. missile batteries, tanks and structures, even under complete fog cover, heavy rain or moonless nights.