Rage over Syria raid


Electoral Member
Mar 27, 2002
Montréal, Quebec
Rage over Syria raid
Israeli air attack near Damascus is the first in 30 years
U.N. convenes to discuss `grave escalation' of tensions


JERUSALEM—Fears the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could sweep through the region were renewed last night after Israeli warplanes bombed Syrian territory for the first time in 30 years.

The Israeli Air Force raid on a purported Palestinian training base near Damascus came in retaliation for a weekend suicide bombing that killed 19 people and wounded 55 in the Israeli port city of Haifa.

The Palestinian group Islamic Jihad claimed the Haifa bombing, but disavowed any link to the Syrian base at Ein Saheb, 22 kilometres northwest of the capital, Damascus.

Residents near the site told Associated Press the camp was abandoned by Palestinian militants decades ago. Ahmed Jirbril, head of the radical Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said the camp belonged to his group and had been deserted for years.

The Israeli army circulated undated Iranian television footage of the camp in defending the strike. The images showed a military officer conducting a tour of buildings and underground tunnels packed with weapons and ammunition.

One security guard was reported wounded in the air raid. But the political fallout sent shock waves throughout the Middle East and beyond.

Emergency sessions of the United Nations Security Council and the 22-member Arab League were convened, with Syria signalling it would opt for a diplomatic response to what it called a "grave escalation" of Mideast tensions.

"Syria is not incapable of creating a resisting and deterring balance that forces Israel to review its" actions, Syria said.

In a letter of complaint to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Syria demanded measures to "deter the Israeli government from following provocative, aggressive policy against Syria."

Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman said he was "outraged" at the Syrian demands, saying "it is as if (Osama) bin Laden would have asked for a Security Council meeting after 9/11," the Hebrew daily Haaretz Web site reported.

The Arab League later released a statement demanding the U.N. act to stop "the organized state terrorism and the practices of the Israeli occupiers against the Palestinian people as well as Syria and Lebanon."

At a joint news conference in Cairo, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak both condemned the action.

Schroeder said peace efforts "become more complicated when ... the sovereignty of a country is violated. This is why the action in Syria is not acceptable."

The French foreign ministry called the Israeli operation "an unacceptable violation of international law and sovereignty rules."

The strike was launched just hours before the start of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. It also came on the eve of the anniversary of the 1973 war between Israel and Syria, when Israel fought off a Syrian attack aimed at reversing Israel's 1967 seizure of the Golan Heights, a strategic border plateau. Yesterday marked Israel's first military action deep in Syria since 1973.

Last night, the 15-nation council, meeting in emergency session, considered the Syrian-drafted resolution accusing Israel of violating the U.N. Charter and international law and expressing "grave concern with the escalating situation in the Middle East."

Syrian Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad, the only Arab council member, called for an immediate vote on the draft.

But U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said the measure would first have to be sent to capitals for study and made clear the United States would not support the draft.

Other diplomats said there would be no action today, the Yom Kippur Jewish holiday.

Negroponte said it was important for Israel to "avoid actions that could lead to a further heightening of tension in the Middle East."

But, he added, "The United States believes that Syria is on the wrong side of the war on terrorism."

Yesterday, the leading Palestinian militant group, Hamas's armed wing, the Izz al-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, vowed to exact revenge against Israel for its air strike on the camp in Syria.

"We call on all the cells of the Izz al-Deen al-Qassam Brigades in all areas to quickly respond in the depths of the Zionist enemy to the treacherous aggression on Syria," said the statement by the Islamist faction's military wing faxed to Reuters News Agency. "Any assault on any Arab and Muslim country is an assault on the Palestinian people, part of the Arab and Muslim nation."

White House spokesperson Ken Lisaius said U.S. President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke by telephone yesterday and "discussed the attack on the terrorist camp in Syria. They also agreed on the need to avoid heightening tension in the region at this time."

Washington has repeatedly confronted Syria with demands for co-operation in its ongoing war on terror, accusing Damascus of sponsoring a range of extremist groups including militants bent on Israel's destruction.

In Israel, public reaction to the strike on Syria was virtually non-existent, as the country saw to the burial of the Haifa suicide bomb victims before withdrawing for the evening arrival of Yom Kippur, the most solemn day of the Jewish calendar. As is customary, television and radio programming was suspended and newspapers ceased publishing until tomorrow.

In a written statement reporting the raid, Israel Defence Forces said "the army has started operating against those behind the attack, those who support (terror) and those who use the strategy of terror in order to harm the citizens of Israel."

Israeli government spokesperson warned yesterday that any country harbouring terrorists "will be responsible to answer for (its) actions."

Buffeted by continuing suicide attacks, the hardline Sharon government has worked through a long menu of military responses during three years of Palestinian intifada, including curfews, house demolitions and a continuing campaign of assassinations against suspected militant leaders in the West Bank and Gaza.

In the wake of double suicide bombings last month, the Israeli cabinet signalled its intention to "remove" Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as an "obstacle to peace in a manner, and at a time, of its choosing."

Last night, Arafat was huddled with his inner circle in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

In a sign of movement in the Palestinian leadership, Prime Minister-nominee Ahmed Qureia announced an eight-member emergency cabinet is to immediately "assert control over security" in Palestinian areas, possibly including action against militants.

With files from Associated Press


Electoral Member
Mar 27, 2002
Montréal, Quebec
How does everybody feel about this new development about Israeli attacks against other nations in the region? Are they following this roadmap to peace? I would not see this as true as they continue to be aggressive towards both Palestinians and Arabs as a whole.

Shame on Israel for this!