Exactly 40 years ago, the Israeli Air Force carried out one of the most daring military missions in history. Eight Israeli fighter pilots flew 1600 kilometers over enemy territory, while flying just over 100 feet above ground to avoid radar detection. In a precision strike, Israeli fighters destroyed Iraq’s nuclear facility, and Saddam Hussein’s nuclear dreams along with it.
As excepted, the international community condemned Israel for the strike. Now imagine what the Gulf War and Iraq War would have looked like if Saddam Hussein had been in possession of nuclear weapons. Israel should not have received condemnation. On the contrary, the international community should have expressed its gratitude to Israel for saving the world from a nuclear Iraq.
Sadly, the world has not learned the lessons of 1981. Today, the United States is about to rejoin the JCPOA with the other world powers. An agreement that guarantees that Iran will be able to manufacture nuclear bombs in the years ahead. As such, Israel will be once again be forced to act alone. And rest assured, Israel will do just that.
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Israel marks 40 years since famed raid that destroyed Iraq’s would-be nuclear reactor
By Israel Hayom, June 7, 2021
Israel this week will mark the 40th anniversary of one of the most daring military missions in its history: the elimination of the would-be nuclear reactor in Iraq. The operation stunned the world and went down in history as one of the most audacious Israeli Air Force raids ever performed and one that defeated all odds.
Operation Opera was a surprise airstrike mounted by the eight IAF fighter jets on June 7, 1981. The jets dropped 16 bombs on their target, leveling Osirak, an unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor located 17 kilometers (11 miles) southeast of Baghdad.
Ten Iraqi soldiers and one French civilian were reportedly killed in the airstrike which Israel called an act of self-defense, saying that the reactor had “less than a month to go” before “it might have become critical.
Operation Opera essentially outlined Israeli policy with respect to preventive strikes on enemy targets, and it added another dimension to its existing policy of deliberate ambiguity, as it related to the nuclear weapons capability of other states in the region.
The attack was preceded by a series of diplomatic efforts by Israel, which for five years had tried to prevent Iraq from realizing its nuclear ambitions. Israeli officials had tried in particular to influence the United States and France, which had supplied Iraq with the nuclear reactor, but to no avail.
While diplomatic efforts were underway, the defense establishment worked tirelessly to outline military options. It was believed that bombing the Iraqi reactor would delay Baghdad’s nuclear project by several months, or at most by several years, making then-Military Intelligence Director Yehoshua Sagi, who opposed the strike, question whether the operational risk was justified, the reaction Israel would surely face in the international arena.
Seven veteran IAF pilots were selected for the mission, as well as one young pilot – Ilan Ramon, who would one day become the first Israeli astronaut, but for whom, at the time, it would be the first operational mission.
The pilots were only told of their targets after months of training, during which one of the gravest concerns was that of fueling.
Aerial refueling was not an option in those days, and the fuel what was then highly advanced F-16 fighter jets was barely enough to strike Iraq and make it back to Israel.
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