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Front Page | In Depth | Conflict with Iraq
Saddam's Iraq: Key events
Iran-Iraq War 1980 - 1988

Israeli bombing 7 June 1981
Israeli bombing 7 June 1981 Iraq's Tuwaitha nuclear complex
Tuwaitha was a key nuclear centre
As fighting between Iran and Iraq raged, Israel bombed a nuclear reactor being built near Baghdad.

Despite the anti-Zionism of Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamist regime, Israel backed Iran in the war.

In the 1970s, Iraq had tried to persuade France to sell it a nuclear reactor similar to the one used in the French weapons programme.
Map showing location of Osirak nuclear reactor

France had refused, but agreed to sell and to help build the 40 megawatt Osirak research reactor at the Tuwaitha nuclear centre near Baghdad.

Israel said that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons.

Fearing Iraq might eventually target Israel, then Prime Minister Menachem Begin sent several F-16s to bomb the Osirak reactor, reducing it to rubble in seconds.

The Israeli military says the raid “put the nuclear genie of Baghdad back into his bottle”.

But the bombing was widely condemned at the time, even by Israel’s traditional ally the US, which backed a UN resolution censuring Israel.

Saddam's rise: 1957-79
Iran-Iraq war: 1980-88
Gulf War: 1991
Aftermath: From 1991
Sanctions: 1991-2002
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