from guardian: The head of Israel’s airforce, Major-General Eliezer Shkedi, was visiting a base in the coastal city of Herziliya last week. For the 50-year-old general, also the head of Israel’s Iran Command, which would fight a war with Tehran if ordered, it was a morale-boosting affair, a meet-and-greet with pilots and navigators who had flown during last summer’s month-long war against Lebanon. The journalists who had turned out in large numbers were there for another reason: to question Shkedi about a mysterious air raid that happened this month, codenamed ‘Orchard’, carried out deep in Syrian territory by his pilots.
Shkedi ignored all questions. It set a pattern for the days to follow as he and Israel’s politicians and officials maintained a steely silence, even when the questions came from the visiting French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner. Those journalists who thought of reporting the story were discouraged by the threat of Israel’s military censor.
But the rumours were in circulation, not just in Israel but in Washington and elsewhere. In the days that followed, the sketchy details of the raid were accompanied by contradictory claims even as US and British officials admitted knowledge of the raid. The New York Times described the target of the raid as a nuclear site being run in collaboration with North Korean technicians. Others reported that the jets had hit either a Hizbollah convoy, a missile facility or a terrorist camp.
Amid the confusion there were troubling details that chimed uncomfortably with the known facts. Two detachable tanks from an Israeli fighter were found just over the Turkish border. According to Turkish military sources, they belonged to a Raam F15I – the newest generation of Israeli long-range bomber, which has a combat range of over 2,000km when equipped with the drop tanks. This would enable them to reach targets in Iran, leading to speculation that it was an ‘operation rehearsal’ for a raid on Tehran’s nuclear facilities.
Finally, however, at the week’s end, the first few tangible details were beginning to emerge about Operation Orchard from a source involved in the Israeli operation.
update: US & israel shared data on suspected nuclear site
from reuters: Before it decided to strike Syria, Israel shared intelligence with President George W. Bush this summer indicating that its neighbor was getting help from North Korea on a nuclear facility, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
The White House was deeply troubled by Israel’s assertion that North Korea was assisting Syria’s nuclear ambition, but opted against an immediate response because of concern over negotiations on Pyongyang’s nuclear program, the Post reported, citing U.S. government sources.
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