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IDF publishes unseen documents from 2002 warning of Syrian nuke ambitions

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A portion of an intelligence report from late 2002 in which the army says there is a possibility that Syria was beginning to develop a nuclear program. (Israel Defense Forces)
A portion of an intelligence report from late 2002 in which the army says there is a possibility that Syria was beginning to develop a nuclear program. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces publishes a never-before-seen internal document from 2002, in which the Military Intelligence Directorate warned that Syria was attempting to begin pursuing a nuclear program.

The intelligence assessment was put together five years before Israel struck a Syrian nuclear reactor in the Deir Ezzor area in the pre-dawn hours of September 6, 2007, in a mission known to much of the world as Operation Orchard, and in the IDF as Outside the Box.

The publication comes 15 years after the major airstrike which destroyed Syria’s nuclear program.

“Recently it became known that secret projects previously unknown to us are being conducted [or at least were being conducted] within the framework of the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission,” the cover sheet of the top-secret document from September 2002 reads.

“The information does not indicate an active military nuclear program underway in Syria, but it does indicate occupation in areas that can contribute to the development of the program, and raises suspicion of the beginning of the development of such a program,” the document adds.

Until today’s publication, the IDF previously indicated that only in late 2004 did the Military Intelligence and the Mossad spy agency begin receiving unverified information about foreign experts helping Syria develop a military nuclear program.

According to several accounts, North Korea had been working with Syria on the nuclear program since at least 2001 or 2002.

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