At the time, tensions were high. "(B)y almost any definition," Israel committed "an act of war." It said little. Syria denounced what happened.
A military spokesman said Israeli planes dropped munitions in an unpopulated area. Syrian air defenses "forced them to flee."
Weeks later, Assad said Israel warplanes struck an "unused military building." He added that Syria reserved the right to retaliate.
(A)nonymous sources" claimed Israel "destroyed a nascent nuclear reactor." With North Korea's help, it was "secretly" being assembled.
Evidence was circumstantial at best. Hersh spent months researching his article.
He "was repeatedly told by current and former intelligence, diplomatic, and congressional officials that they were not aware of any solid evidence of ongoing nuclear weapons programs in Syria."
Center for American Progress nuclear policy director Joseph Cirincione said:
"Syria does not have the technical, industrial, or financial ability to support a nuclear weapons program."
"I've been following this issue for fifteen years, and every once in a while a suspicion arises and we investigate and there's nothing. There was and is no nuclear-weapons threat from Syria. This is all political."
Others Hersh interviewed expressed similar sentiments. Alleged evidence was suspect at best, fake at worst. No concrete proof existed.
"Much of what one would expect to see around a secret nuclear site was lacking at the target, a former State Department intelligence expert who now deals with proliferation issues for the Congress said."
"There (was) no security around the building. No barracks for the Army or the workers. No associated complex."
A former senior US intelligence official had access to current information at the time. "We (have no) proof of a reactor," he said. "No signals intelligence, no human intelligence, no satellite intelligence."
Best evidence was a North Korean ship. Both countries had routine business dealings for years. North Korean laborers went back and forth routinely. They did nothing out of the ordinary.
They worked at the site. It was unrelated to nuclear or chemical warfare. "Syria concluded that chemical warfare had little deterrent value against Israel."