Watch: Israeli pilot speaks about Syria raid

Arutz Sheva spoke to one of the IAF pilots who took part in the attack on the nuclear reactor in Syria in September of 2007.

Yoni Kempinski,

Israeli pilot who took part in attack on Syrian nuclear reactor
Israeli pilot who took part in attack on Syrian nuclear reactor
Arutz Sheva

Arutz Sheva spoke to one of the Israeli Air Force pilots who took part in the attack on the nuclear reactor in Syria on September 6, 2007.

“We took off from this Air Force base. It was a dark night, late hour, a very long distance to the target. The route and the target were in hostile territory. We flew at a low level, very close to the ground. It was a very dark night and there were some decisions we made within seconds.”

Mainly not to be detected, so the whole mission won’t be thwarted.

“Yes. It was a very high priority that we won’t be detected by the radars of the enemy and after a very long route we arrived at the target, we popped up and climbed to the flight level we needed in order to release the bombs. There was a very sequenced order that we needed to release the bombs. Everyone knew what his position was in the attack.”

And at that moment, do you act like robots or do you think about the significance?

“No, we didn’t act like robots. If in a regular flight I check all the gauges and everything only once or twice before I release the bombs, in this flight I checked everything about five times and I was completely sure that the bombs are going to be released at the precise place and time.”

And how fast do you understand that you did it, we attacked, and we succeeded?

“We released the bombs from the plane, and about 10 to 30 seconds later, we already saw that the bombs destroyed the target. First we see the explosions, the initial damage, and then after one or two minutes we see the complete destruction.”

And how fast do you have to leave because the response and the reactions could come very fast?

“First, we need to understand that our mission was accomplished. After we understand it, we now concentrate on the way back. You have a long distance in hostile territory, and that is your focus after the attack.”

And then you get back to the base and you start thinking about the significance, you start thinking about the big picture?

“We were aware of the significance from the very early stages of the planning of this operation. This was the second time that the State of Israel sent the Air Force to attack a nuclear reactor, and we knew all the lessons learned from the attack [in Iraq] in 1981 and we knew that attack by heart. So we were aware of the significance and we thought about the future of the State of Israel after this attack.”

How do you look at the fact that it was kept secret until now? I’ll ask you how you dealt with it, how you lived with it, but first of all where does that decision come from in terms of how you look at it?

“The State of Israel decided to keep it a secret in order to prevent a war. The situation in 2007 was very tense and that was the strategic decision, in order not to get to war.”

And how do you live with that? You hear the little rumors and you want to say, “Hey that’s me”.

“There’s always the need to go and tell your friends and tell your family, but I think we know how to keep a secret. We understand the significance of keeping a secret, but every year in the beginning of September we meet – the group of pilots who participated in this operation – and we share our experiences and feelings and there are things that are revealed only after some years have passed, so it’s very interesting.”

Now, 10 years later, it’s not only that we understand what happened then, we also can think what the situation would be today if today’s Syria would have a nuclear plant.

“The State of Israel didn’t let an existential threat to rise up in the Middle East. It was like this in Iraq in 1981, it was in 2007 in Syria, and I believe that in any other place we will be able to give the exact and correct answer and to attack every existential threat that will arise.”