Operation Yeruham was a pre-emptive military strike by Israel against nuclear facilities in Iran.
After sanctions repeatedly failed to have any effect, Israel began to take military and civil defense preparations against a possible Iranian nuclear strike. Training and top-secret weapons development was conducted, while the public was subjected to civil defense drills. Following the collapse of North Korea after the collapse of the economy, and its annexation by South Korea, Iran offered asylum for all North Korean nuclear scientists. Subsequently, the Mossad began increased espionage operations inside Iran, and all Israeli spy satellites concentrated on Iranian nuclear facilities. In June 2009, Mossad director Meir Dagan announced that Iran would have a handful of operational nuclear weapons by 2011.
After the election of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli government launched a fresh push for sanctions on Iran, but to little avail. One of Netanyahu's key campaign promises was that he would stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
On January 30, the Mossad informed Prime Minister Netanyahu that Iran had bought a fresh shipment of uranium from Russia, and would have nuclear capabilities in the next six to eight months. An emergency meeting of the Israeli Security Cabinet took place in Jerusalem, with the media being told that it had to do with the Middle East peace process. The Security Cabinet unanimously voted to authorize the Israeli Defense Ministry to "take all necessary steps to safeguard the existence of the State of Israel".
A select group of pilots was chosen, and underwent two months of training over the Negev. The public was kept unaware, and only a handful of Israeli officials knew of it. All officials who knew of it always discussed it in code-words over the phone, and always met in a secret location to plan the operation. Based on intelligence and satellite surveillance, four targets were selected:
- Natanz Uranium Enrichment Plant
- Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant
- Qom Uranium Enrichment Facility
- Tehran Nuclear Research Center
Israeli officials hoped that hitting these four targets would cripple Iran's nuclear development capabilities for a number of years, but did not hope to destroy them completely. Fearing possible Iranian retaliation, civil defense drills were stepped up in Israel.
On February 4, 2010, an Israeli Navy submarine landed four teams of Mossad agents on the Iranian coast. Each team was equipped with SOFLAM laser-bomb guidance technology, and had enough counterfeit Iranian Tumans to travel to the vicinity of their targets and purchase hotel rooms.
On February 6, forty Israeli Air Force F-16 fighter jets took off from Palmachin Air base, and passed over Saudi Arabia towards Iran, flying low to avoid radar detection. When they were over the Persian Gulf, they met up with three Israeli Boeing 707 fuel tankers, which refuelled them. The planes then broke up into ten-plane formations, with one formation targeting each site. Shortly before the planes reached their targets, the Mossad agents were called in by formation leaders and told to position their SOFLAMs. The planes flew low over Iran to avoid detection, then swooped up and dived on their targets, each plane releasing one PB500A1 hard-target penetration bomb, guided by SOFLAMs. Once the planes had struck their targets, they immediately headed out towards the Persian Gulf. Ten of the jets were shot down by anti-aircraft fire. Three airmen were killed, the remainder successfully bailed out and were taken prisoner. Once over the Persian Gulf, the planes were met and again refuelled by three Boeing 707s, and landed at Palmachin Air base at 8:00 AM on February 7.
The initial attack wave was followed up by two Israeli F-15s from Tel Nof Air base. Flying low over Jordan and rural areas of Iraq, they escaped detection, and bombed the Bakhtarun Missile Site in Iran, the closest Iranian ballistic missile launch site to Israel. An Israeli Navy submarine off Iran's coast also fired six cruise missiles at the Iranian ballistic missile storage facilities at Qeshm Island, Sirjan, and Khorramabad. Two missiles were fired at each site, all of which were destroyed, along with many of their missiles.
Once the initial phase of the mission had been completed, the Mossad agents had quickly flew from Tehran to Amman, Jordan, but had to leave the SOFLAM gear behind due to possible detection in airport security. They then rented cars and drove to a fixed desert location near the Israeli border, where they were extracted by helicopter.
All of the facilities targeted were completely devastated, with large parts of Iran's uranium supply and ballistic missiles lost. A total of 430 Iranians were killed in the attack, including 40 civilians. Casualties were highest among the nuclear scientists. Among the dead were 13 Russian and two former North Korean nuclear scientists.
In addition to its attack on Iran, the Israeli Air Force launched airstrikes on all known Hezbollah missile depots in Lebanon, in anticipation that the missiles could be fired at Israel in retaliation. Dozens of F-15 and F-16 jets, and AH-64 Apache and AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters took part in the mission. Most of Hezbollah's Iranian-supplied missile arsenal was destroyed within twenty-four minutes. Israeli artillery batteries were also stationed along the border to fire at any Lebanese Army position that shot at the aircraft. One Lebanese Army post that shot at a helicopter with machine-gun fire was levelled by a ten-minute barrage. In addition, several Israeli F-15s bombed all known Gaza smuggling tunnels to cut off the supply of rockets.
Iran reacted the next day by firing dozens of missiles at Israel, targeting Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Central Israel, and the Dimona Nuclear Center. Israel had expected this move, and had deployed Arrow, Iron Dome, and Patriot missile defense batteries around the country. Warplanes were also dispatched to shoot down incoming missiles, with a quarter of the Israeli Air Force's fleet of fighter jets being involved in the effort. Most of the missiles were shot down, but some hit their targets. Civilian and military casualties were relatively low, as bases were on alert and most citizens had been evacuated to bomb shelters. Although most landed in open fields in Central Israel, many also hit urban areas and rural communities, causing significant damage and casualties. In addition, the Iranian Air Force and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Air Force launched air attacks on Israeli cities, including kamikaze-style attacks by UAVs, from bases in Syria, but the Israeli Air Force managed to shoot down a substantial number of aircraft, and scare away many more. A few aircraft, however, managed to strike their targets. The most damaging attack was by a UAV loaded with plastic explosives that hit Ziv Hospital in Safed. Two other UAVs were shot down: one as it approached the Knesset building in Jerusalem, and another as it dived on the Israeli Defense Ministry building in Tel Aviv.
Israel expected Iran to attack it through Hezbollah. Minutes after the attack was completed, the Israeli Air Force and Israeli Navy struck all known Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, severely damaging the organization's military capabilities, especially its rocket and missile capabilities. Hezbollah retaliated immediately, firing all its remaining missiles and its Katyusha rockets into Northern Israel, killing several people. Dozens Hezbollah operatives also assaulted Israeli border posts head-on in a number of incidents, but were beaten back, with all of the attackers killed, with the loss of one Israeli soldier dead and five wounded. The Iranian government immediately informed Hamas of the attack and ordered it to conduct a massive attack launch a massive attack. The organization fired all its Qassam and Grad rockets at communities in southern Israel.. A significant portion of these missiles and rockets were shot down by Iron Dome defense systems, but some hit. Three people in Sderot were killed.
In addition, all Hezbollah and Iranian intelligence sleeper cells in the West were activated, and launched attacks against Israeli embassies and consulates, and against Jewish communities worldwide, planting bombs in community centers, synagogues, and schools. Several sniper attacks occurred on people near synagogues or Israeli diplomatic missions.
Iran blamed the United States for giving Israel permission to attack. Within hours of the raid, Iran unleashed a furious missile bombardment against American and Coalition bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, causing heavy casualties. Iran also fired an anti-ship missile at an American warship in the Persian Gulf, causing twenty casualties and severely damaging the ship. Thousands of Iranian Revolutionary Guards invaded Iraq and attacked U.S. and Coalition forces, with orders to inflict as many casualties as possible. Fierce clashes erupted throughout eastern Iraq. Iranian sleeper agents in Iraq urged local Shi'ite militias into action. The militas attacked units en route to re-inforce Coalition troops under facing the Iranian assault. Despite these actions, Coalition reinforcements began reaching the front lines about three hours after the attack, and the invasion was blunted by heavy artillery and airstrikes, although several attack helicopters were shot down. By evening, all Iranian forces were in retreat. About 400 U.S. and Coalition troops and 2000 Iranians were killed or wounded. The United States retaliated by bombing Iranian military bases across the country, killing hundreds of soldiers.
Arab and Muslim reactions
Massive demonstrations immediately erupted across the Arab and Muslim world. Crowds of massive proportions took to the streets, ransacking the Israeli embassies in Cairo, Amman, and Ankara. Several Israeli diplomats were lynched, and embassy guards were brutally beaten. Police were unable to contain the rioters, and resorted to live fire, killing dozens. There were also angry demonstrations in front of Western embassies.
In Europe, local Muslims staged demonstrations in the streets, and attempted to storm the Israeli embassies, but were blocked by police. Synagogues, Jewish community centers, and Jewish schools across the continent were torched, Jewish cemeteries vandalized, and people identified as Jewish were attacked.
Throughout the following days, protesters ransacked and torched government buildings throughout Arab and Muslim capitals, and violently clashed with security forces. In Saudi Arabia, Islamists engaged in gunbattles with the army. Islamist groups called for the immediate overthrow of governments and immediate military action against Israel. Order was only restored after military forces were called in, and martial law imposed.
In Israel, the Arab minority rioted throughout the country. Arab mobs sacked and torched buildings in Jewish areas, and attacked any Jews they saw. Demonstrations took place in Arab areas, while Arab Knesset members angrily protested the attack and called for sanctions on Israel and Israel's nuclear disarmament. Israeli police reacted by firing at Arab rioters with live ammunition. The army and border police was sent into Arab localities, and imposed martial law and a curfew. Several Arabs were shot after attacking security forces.