Reports resurface of underground nuclear facility in Syria

Qusayr believed to be underground nuclear facility; First reports surfaced in 2015 with satellite imagery proving Assad’s regime hiding its construction; Report: Israel’s action serves to highlight once again the lack of accounting for Syria’s past nuclear weapons program and the location of any assets remaining from that program.

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Following Israel’s confirmation that it destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor over a decade ago, reports resurfaced of an underground nuclear facility in Syria.

A report released by the Institute for Science and International Security revisited intelligence previously collected and published in a Der Speigel article in 2015 on an underground nuclear facility at the Qusayr site in Syria. Construction of the site began sometime in 2009, with satellite imagery of continued construction on the site since.

The report highlights evidence not only from satellite imagery, but from intelligence reports over the past years on nuclear efforts of the Assad regime, including its partnership with North Korea on nuclear weapons development and research.

Some highlights from the report are of satellite imagery from 2009 that showed construction and excavation of limestone in the region. The limestone was transported to a different location and camouflaged, the report citing it as “showing significant efforts to hide the underground site.”

It also pointed out the location is connected to a power grid and to a lake and well, with “probable mobile drill rig” photographed in July of 2012, as well as three secret entrances and high security measures.

Hezbollah was tasked with guarding the site near Homs, and Hezbollah officials frequently met with the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission. Some 8,000 fuel rods that were intended for Al Kibar (which Israel destroyed in 2007) were transferred to the new underground site, Qusayr.

This week’s report calls for an inspection of the International Atomic Energy Agency, citing Israel’s decision to declassify its strikes on Al Kibar in 2007. It emphasizes that Israel’s reports “includes documents explaining that it had strong evidence of North Korean involvement in the reactor project” and that “Israel’s action serves to highlight once again the lack of accounting for Syria’s past nuclear weapons program and the location of any assets remaining from that program.”

Specifically on nuclear activity and partnership with North Korea, the report warns “Any nuclear-related facility in Syria could involve considerable assistance from North Korea, given that Pyongyang provided extensive assistance in the construction of the Al Kibar reactor. This includes possibly tens of metric tonnes of uranium fuel, and other equipment or materials associated with nuclear fuel fabrication and plutonium separation, that likely existed as key elements of the Al Kibar reactor project.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu reacted to the confirmation by Israel on the strikes in Syria in 2007. He stated on Wednesday, “The Government of Israel, the IDF and the Mossad prevented Syria from developing a nuclear capability. For this they are deserving of all praise. Israel’s policy has been and remains consistent – to prevent our enemies from arming themselves with nuclear weapons.”



Photo: Google Images of Qusayr in Syria, 2018


Israel confirms it destroyed Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

Following decade military censor, Israel confirms it destroyed Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007; Four jets and 17 tons of explosives destroyed North Korean assisted nuclear facility in secret mission; IDF: The nuclear facility was destroyed and an escalation in the region prevented.



Israel officially confirmed it destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007 following a decade-long military censor.

Israel’s military censor cleared the story for publication on Wednesday, Israel for the first time publicly confirming it destroyed the Assad regime’s nuclear reactor between the 5-6th of September 2007.

The operation was called “Operation Orchard” and began sometime in 2004 when the IDF and Mossad began collecting evidence and intelligence on the construction of a nuclear facility in the Deir al-Zor region of Syria, around 250 miles from Damascus.

Following Libya’s announcement it would end its nuclear program in 2003, the Mossad began global intelligence gathering on nuclear efforts. Evidence surfaced that North Korea was assisting Assad’s regime in creating a nuclear facility to manufacture and build a “gas-cooled, graphite-moderated reactor… capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium.” The facility was disguised as farm and construction began sometime in 2005.

In March of 2007, the IDF reported that “Syria has set up, within its territory, a nuclear reactor for the production of plutonium, through North Korea, which according to an initial worst-case assessment is liable to be activated in approximately another year.”

On September 5, 2007, the Israel Air Force entered Syrian airspace through Turkey, using technology to “blind the enemy’s screens” to avoid detection. Four Israeli jets dropped 17 tons of explosives on the reactor destroying it. The mission lasted a total of four hours.

The IDF Spokespersons Unit confirmed Wednesday morning after over a decade of silence, “For two years, officials in the Military Intelligence Directorate had been monitoring the Syrian nuclear project. Their intelligence suggested that the facility would become active toward the end of 2007, which prompted the IDF to initiate an attack on the facility. The Israeli Air Force had very little time to prepare the attack and account for possible contingencies, such as retaliation by the Syrian forces. Once the attack plan was ready, however, it was possible to execute it within 12 hours from the moment the order was to be given.”

Specifically on the attack, the IDF confirmed that on September 5, 2007 “Shortly after midnight, the Prime Minister [Olmert], Defense Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief of the General Staff, Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Head of the Military Intelligence Directorate and Head of the Operations Directorate assembled in the aerial war room. From there, they attentively followed all aircraft’s aerial locations and the communication systems. Two fighter jets, F-16 and F-15, left the base at 10:30 pm and flew low to stay undetected. The whole operation took four hours.”

The IDF confirmed its forces were prepared for a retaliation from Assad’s regime. There were no attacks, the IDF confirming the mission’s success as “The nuclear facility was destroyed and an escalation in the region prevented.”

Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman responded to the release of reports this morning, stating “The motivation of our enemies has grown in recent years, but so too the might of the IDF. Everyone in the Middle East would do well to internalize this equation.”



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Photos: IDF Spokespersons Unit, Syrian nuclear reactor before and after, 2018. 

Turkey to extend military campaign into northeast Syria

Turkish military and Free Syrian Army take Afrin; ISIS takes over Syrian oil field, as well as small region in Damascus; Erdogan announces military campaign on remaining “terrorists” in northern Syria.



An invasion of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) into the western bank of the Euphrates is imminent as Turkey announced it would continue its military campaign into northeast Syria after taking Afrin.

The Assad regime continues its attacks on Ghouta outside of Damascus killing innocent civilians, including a reported 15 children killed in the past 24 hours.

Meanwhile, ISIS has gained control of a small district of al-Qadam in Damascus after fighting with Assad forces over the past two days. Syria’s most important oil field (T-2), which was guarded by Syrian Army and Hezbollah forces, was also recently captured by ISIS.

The United States has been reported to have started mobilizing tanks, armored vehicles, rocket launchers and supplies to the region on the eastern flank of the Euphrates where they control three important oil and gas fields (Jafra, Al-Omar and Koniko). Part of the heavy equipment is armored vehicles and launched bridges in what seems to be  preparation for an in-depth invasion to take ISIS out and to regain control of the ISIS-held oil field.

Spokesman for the Pentagon, Col. Rob Manning, confirmed the United States would continue its support of the SDF, reiterating that the US forces will not withdraw from the northern Syrian city of Manbij, northeast of Aleppo. He stated “We’ve made that very clear that U.S. forces are in Manbij, and again, this goes back to the need to focus on the defeat of ISIS… we’ll take measures to make sure that we de-conflict.”

On ISIS gaining control in the region and Turkey’s military campaign following its defeat of Afrin, Manning stated “The fighting in western Syria over the last two months, including in Afrin, has distracted from the defeat ISIS campaign and provided opportunity for ISIS to begin reconstituting in some areas… We are very concerned about the effect fighting there has had on our defeat ISIS efforts and would like to see an end to the hostilities before ISIS has the opportunity to regroup in eastern Syria.”

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan praised Turkish and FSA forces for their victory in Afrin, stating “The city centre of Afrin has been completely controlled by the Free Syrian Army, supported by the Turkish military. The remaining militants and the traps that they left are being cleaned by our soldiers and the FSA. So, we won’t be seeing the rags of the terrorist organization at the city centre of Afrin anymore. We will see the flags of peace, and currently the Turkish flag and the FSA flag are flying there.”

He announced Tuesday morning that Turkey would continue “this process until we entirely eliminate this corridor, including in Manbij, Ayn al-Arab, Tal Abyad, Ras al-Ayn and Qamishli,” as Turkey embarks on its military campaign on Kurdish controlled territory in northern Syria.



Photo: Erdogan, Wikimedia Commons, 2018

French consulate employee arrested for smuggling weapons for Palestinians

Romain Frank delivered 70 pistols and 2 assault rifles between Gaza and West Bank; Over 9 arrests made; Israel’s Foreign Ministry: The ties with France are excellent and the affair doesn’t adversely affect them.



A French consulate worker In Israel was arrested for smuggling weapons between the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Reports surfaced after Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, confirmed two employees of the French consulate in Israel were arrested mid-February, the French national to appear before a court on Monday.

According to the Shin Bet, Romain Frank was working for a smuggling ring in the West Bank and Jerusalem alongside an Arab-Israeli employee of the French consulate. Frank reportedly carried out 5 smuggling rounds using French consulate vehicles between the Strip and West Bank. He reportedly delivered a total of 70 pistols and 2 assault rifles.

The Shin Bet reported Monday “The consulate employee has smuggled weapons on several occasions in recent months, taking advantage of the consular vehicle of the French consulate, which has facilitated the security check at the border crossing, as is customary for these vehicles. The consulate employee transferred arms on five occasions, during which he transferred some 70 pistols and two automatic rifles.”

According to the Shin Bet, over 9 arrests have been made since mid-February connected to the smuggling ring.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reacted to reports that the events would damage French-Israeli relations, releasing the statement “The ties with France are excellent and the affair doesn’t adversely affect them.”



Photo: Romain Frank, Shin Bet, 2018

IDF destroyed two terror tunnels in Gaza Strip over the weekend

IDF located new Hamas tunnel constructed off tunnel previously targeted during summer of 2014; Fourth tunnel demolished in the past 4 months; IDF: Continues to hold the terror organization, Hamas, responsible for all aggression emanating from the Gaza Strip.



The IDF destroyed two Hamas terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip over the weekend.

The tunnel was located after the IDF responded to an explosive device detonated on the Gaza border on Saturday targeting Israeli soldiers. The IDF responded, destroying a Hamas observation point with tank fire.

Hours later, the IDF confirmed it carried out airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on a “recycled” Hamas tunnel within the Gaza Strip that was previously attacked by the IDF during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014. It confirmed “the IDF thwarted an attempt by Hamas to renew an old terror tunnel directed towards the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Israel. The IDF has been monitoring the situation and was able to neutralize the tunnel without any casualties whatsoever. All activity took place within Israeli territory.”

It was the first reported reconstruction and attempted use of a Hamas tunnel, the IDF reporting it located a second, new tunnel built off the previous tunnel during “IDF operational, intelligence, and technological efforts to locate and neutralize terror tunnels.”

The IDF Spokespersons Unit confirmed “This is one of the first times Hamas tried to reuse an old terror tunnel. Hamas attempted to reuse an old tunnel that was discovered in 2014 by building a new one nearby, with the intention to link them together and thereby render the old one usable again. The IDF was able to thwart the attempts to link up with the old terror tunnel before the new one was able to penetrate into Israeli territory.”

It was the fourth tunnel located and destroyed in the past four months.

As with all aggression and terror from the Gaza Strip, the IDF reiterated that Hamas would be held accountable. It warned Sunday, “The IDF continues to hold the terror organization, Hamas, responsible for all aggression emanating from the Gaza Strip. Any threats to hurt innocent Israeli civilians and any breaches of Israeli sovereignty are taken seriously and will be responded to.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the events during his weekly cabinet meeting, reiterating “Our policy is to take determined action against any attempt to attack us and to systematically eliminate the infrastructure of terrorist tunnels and thus we will continue. The time has come for the international community to realize that the assistance funds to Gaza are being buried underground.”




Photo: Hamas tunnel, Gaza Strip, IDF Spokespersons Unit 

Lebanon to increase military presence on border with Israel

PM Hariri announces deployment of additional Lebanese Armed Forces on southern border with Israel; EU, France and UK pledge funds to support LAF.








Lebanon announced on Thursday that it would deploy additional troops to its southern border with Israel in efforts to avoid future conflict with Hezbollah.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri confirmed the deployment following a meeting in Rome on Thursday. The meeting was centered on raising funds to build up and support the Lebanese Armed Forces, representatives from 40 countries, including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterre and representation from the European Union in attendance.

Hariri announced the deployment stating “We will be sending more LAF [Lebanese Armed Forces] troops to the south, and we stress our intention to deploy another regiment.” He claimed that “While we are thinking of ways to move from a state of cessation of hostilities to a state of permanent ceasefire, Israel continues to make plans to build walls on reservation areas along the blue line.”

So far, France pledged a reported $500 million, the European Union $61 million and the United Kingdom $13 million.

The development follows Hezbollah’s claims that Assad is a “mandatory channel for the solution” to Syria’s civil war, and that Hezbollah is prepared in case Israel “decides to carry out any foolish act”.

Hezbollah deputy leader Naim Qassem stated ahead of the weekend that “Hezbollah is ready to confront the aggression… if Israel decides to carry out any foolish action. But it does not appear that the circumstances are for an Israeli decision for war. We have declared repeatedly and frequently that we, as the resistance, work to have permanent readiness and we are ready to confront the Israeli aggression if it happens, and therefore we are ready to defend ourself by all available means. We are working to fortify our front, and to be ready.”

On Syria, he claimed “There is no solution in Syria under the title of ‘excluding President Assad’. On the contrary, the solution in Syria is with President Assad, and he is the mandatory channel for the solution.”



Photo: Israel- Lebanon border, Wikimedia, 2018.

Hamas, PA accuse “Israel and its collaborators” of assassination attempt

PA and Hamas accuse Israel and its collaborators of assassination attempt on Palestinian PM; Greenblatt: Attack demonstrates that Hamas is profoundly unfit to govern Gaza.

Assaf Shilo/Israel Sun 07-12-2013 Dutch Prime Minister Rutte in Bethlehem


Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and PA intelligence official Majed Farraj survived an attempted assassination on Tuesday morning in the Gaza Strip, both Hamas and the PA claiming “Israel and its collaborators” as responsible for the attack.

The event occurred ahead of a scheduled meeting with Hamas officials for talks on a reconciliation agreement with the PA. Hamdallah was en route to attend the opening of a PA-funded water treatment plant in the Strip when there was an explosion and shots fired at his convoy, the prime minister and Farraj escaping the assassination attempt.

The Palestinian Authority initially accused Hamas, PA President Mahmoud Abbas claiming the “crime was planned and its targets and perpetrators are well-known,” referring to Hamas. He claimed the attack was “consistent with the attempts to avoid allowing the Palestinian [Authority] government to operate in Gaza, undermine reconciliation and destroy the national enterprise by separating Gaza from the West Bank in order to establish a questionable state in the Gaza Strip.”

Hours following, Hamdallah met with Hamas head Ismail Haniyeh, both leaders announcing that Hamas was not responsible for the incident, rather claiming “Israel and its collaborators” as responsible.

The incident occurred while 19 states attended a White House summit on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The Palestinians boycotted the summit, both the PA and Hamas claiming the United States of using the crisis for its advantage.

President Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt responded to the attempted assassination on Hamdallah, stating “The Prime Minister was in Gaza to inaugurate a wastewater treatment plant that some of you, international donors, financed to improve the health of the people of Gaza. This attack, once again, demonstrates that Hamas is profoundly unfit to govern Gaza. But we cannot be deterred, and the Palestinian Authority should not be deterred. The PA has a legitimate role to play in Gaza, as does the international community.”

On the PA’s boycott of the summit, he stated “We regret that the Palestinian Authority is not here with us today. This is not about politics. This is about the health, safety and happiness of the people of Gaza, and of all Palestinians, Israelis and Egyptians.”



Photo: PA PM Hamdallah, Wikimedia Commons, 2018.