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January 25, 2003

Israeli Astronaut Bombed Iraqi Nuclear Reactor in 1981
Jerusalem — Israel’s first astronaut, Col. Ilan Ramon, is a former Israeli fighter pilot who participated in the bombing of an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 — a feat for which he is now being praised as a hero.

The bombing of the primarily French-built Osiraq nuclear reactor near Baghdad brought world outrage and censure on Israel in 1981.

But 10 years later in 1991, when a U.S.-allied coalition faced Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein — who had no nuclear weapons — the West was forced to admit that Israel had done them a great favor.

“They built the reactor with French and Italian help. They were about to start the radioactive process there,” said Col. Yoash Tsiddon-Chatto, a member of the Israel Society of Aeronautics and Astronautics and former Chief of Planning and Operational Requirements in the Israel Air Force.

“If we were to bomb it after it became ‘hot’ it would been like a nuclear disaster [like in the Ukraine],” Tsiddon-Chatto said. “[Israel] tried to prevent nuclear fallout.”