Israel attacks Syria: UK Commentaries
- Israeli planes attack Syria: 'Civilian site targeted'
DAMASCUS, Oct 5: Syria said on Sunday an Israeli airstrike had
targeted a civilian site near Damascus in a "grave escalation" of
tensions in the Middle East. Israel had said the raid was aimed at
a training camp for "terror groups".....(Agencies)
UN Council goes into emergency session
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 5: The UN Security Council met in emergency
session on Sunday at the request of Syria, which asked the 15-
member body to condemn Israel for attacking an alleged Palestinian
training camp near Damascus.....(Reuters)
Israel's attack is a lethal step towards war in Middle East
By Robert Fisk in Beirut
The Independent - 6 October 2003
ISRAEL RECEIVED the Green Light. It came from what is called the
Syria Accountability Act, moving through the United States Congress
with the help of Israel's supporters, that will impose sanctions on
Damascus for its supposed enthusiasm for "terrorism" and occupation
Speaker after speaker in the past week has been warning that Syria
is the new - or old, or non-existent - threat previously represented
by Iraq: that it has weapons of mass destruction, that it has
biological warheads, that it received Iraq's non-existent weapons of
mass destruction just before we began our illegal invasion of Iraq
The Israeli lie about "thousands" of Iranian Revolutionary Guards in
the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon has been uncloaked yet again. In
reality, there hasn't been an Iranian militant in Lebanon for 20
years. But who cares? The dictatorial Syrian regime - and
dictatorial it most decidedly is - has to be struck after a Jenin
woman lawyer, who has probably never visited Damascus in her life,
blows herself and 19 innocent Israelis up in Haifa. And why not? If
America can strike Afghanistan for the international crimes against
humanity of 11 September 2001, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were
Saudis, and if America can invade Iraq, which had absolutely nothing
to do with 11 September, why shouldn't Israel strike Syria?
Yes, Syria does support Hamas and Islamic Jihad. But in Iraq is
based the Mujahideen Khalq, which bombs Iran, and the Americans have
not bombed them. In Jerusalem exists a government that openly
threatens the life of Yasser Arafat but no one suggests action
should be taken against the Israeli administration.
In Jerusalem lives a prime minister, Ariel Sharon, who was
adjudicated to be "personally responsible" by Israel's own Kahane
commission of enquiry for the massacre of up to 1,700 Palestinian
civilians at the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Beirut in 1982.
But he is not going on trial for war crimes.
Of course, Syria is going to take the air strikes on the training
base" of Islamic Jihad to the United Nations. Much good will it do
Damascus. When the United States cannot bring itself to support a
resolution condemning Israel's threat to murder Arafat, when it will
not stop the Israelis building 600 more houses - for Jews and Jews
only - on Palestinian land, air raids on Syria simply don't matter.
Perhaps Lebanon will benefit. Perhaps Lebanon can now be spared
Israel's retaliation for Palestinian violence - unless, of course,
Israel decides to strike a Palestinian "training base" in Lebanon.
No one asks what these "training bases" are. Do Palestinian suicide
bombers really need to practice suicide bombing? Does turning a
switch need that much training? Surely the death of a brother or a
cousin by the Israeli army is all the practice that is needed.
But no. Yesterday, we took another little lethal step along the road
to Middle East war, establishing facts on the ground, proving that
it's permissible to bomb the territory of Syria in the "war against
terror", which President Bush has himself declared now includes
And the precedents are there if we need them. Back in 1983, when
President Reagan thought he was fighting a "war on terror" in the
Middle East, he ordered his air force to bomb the Syrian army in the
Lebanese Bekaa Valley, losing a pilot and allowing the Syrians to
capture his co-pilot, who was only returned after a prolonged and
politically embarrassing negotiation by Jesse Jackson. In an era
when America is ready to threaten the invasion of Syria and Iran -
part of that infamous "axis of evil" - this may seem small beer. But
Syria itself has seen what has happened to America's army in Iraq,
and is emboldened by its humiliation to avenge the attacks of Israel
or America, whatever the cost.
If America cannot control Iraq, why should Syria fear Israel?
Islamabad condemns Israeli raid
ISLAMABAD, Oct 5: The government on Sunday condemned Israeli attack
on Syrian territory and said it was in violation of International
law. Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan said that the attack would
further complicate the dangerous situation in the region and make the
implementation of the quartet's roadmap more difficult.
"Pakistan calls on the international community, especially the
quartet, to take steps to restrain such actions and to bring the
peace process in the Middle East back on track," he said.-APP
Israel's justification for attack on Syria
TIM CORNWELL DEPUTY FOREIGN EDITOR - Scotsman October 6, 2003
ISRAEL may have taken the war of words between the US and Damascus as
a green light for its attack on Syrian soil, analysts said yesterday.
Israeli officials described yesterday's air raid, barely ten miles
outside the Syrian capital, as a warning shot meant to end Syrian
support for terrorists, fired with "no intention of escalation".
Washington, meanwhile, has repeatedly blamed Syria for
allowing "Arabs" and "foreigners" to cross its border to attack
American troops, hinting at the possible threat of sanctions.
At the same time, it has joined Israel in demanding that Syria end
its backing for Palestinian militants.
The US occupation of Iraq has left Israel's old enemy surrounded by
allies of the US. The cross-border pipeline supplying cheap Iraqi oil
has been turned off, adding to the economic pressure on Syria's
president, Bashar Assad.
In the days of the Cold War, Washington would have been deeply
cautious of any attack upon a long-time Soviet ally. But the chief
legacy of those days has been to leave the Syrian military with
obsolete and aging Soviet weaponry.
"One of the first questions is, did the US give any sort of green
light?" said David Lesch, a leading analyst of US-Syrian
relations. "US attitudes towards Syria since the war may have created
a sense in Israel that this is something they can get away with, in
tune with US policy."
The Israeli air strike was launched after a suicide bomber from
Islamic Jihad killed 19 people in a restaurant in the northern port
city of Haifa on Saturday.
Israel's military said it had targeted a base near Damascus used by
militant groups. With Islamic Jihad claiming the area was empty, and
Syrian security keeping reporters at bay, there was little early
indication of damage or loss of life, if any.
By targeting Syria, the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon may, for
now, rescind its threat to "remove" Yasser Arafat.
That policy - embraced after the last suicide bombing on Israeli
soil - brought warnings from around the world against directly
targeting the Palestinians' elected president. While some members of
Mr Sharon's cabinet called for the policy to be acted on, Mr Arafat
seemed to have won a breathing space.
"Syria is easier to get at and can't do anything back," said Mr
Lesch, a professor of Middle East History at Texas' Trinity
University. "There will be a lot of vitriolic verbiage but they
cannot do anything. It portrays, from the Sharon administration to
the Israeli public, that they are doing something in reaction to the
"The significance of the operation is more in terms of its symbolic
message to the Syrians and the terror organisations," added Eran
Lerman, a retired senior Israeli military intelligence officer. "It
simply says that nobody is immune."
The strike, at Ein Saheb, nine miles north-west of Damascus, took
place on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the 1973 Middle East
war. "The Syrian military is under no illusion of what would happen
if they try to [retaliate]," Mr Lerman said.
The first attack on the Syrian heartland in three decades, however,
brings risks of its own. If Syria chooses to ignore Israel's warning
shot, it begs the question of what will follow.
The Arab world reacted with predictable outrage yesterday. The
Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, condemned an "aggression against a
brotherly state". The German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, speaking
at a joint Cairo news conference with him, described the action
Mr Schröder's tough comments may renew the divides left by Iraq.
Washington has repeatedly lashed out, verbally at least, at Syria.
During the Iraq war, Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary,
charged that Syria had supplied Iraqi forces with night-vision
In May, the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, warned Mr Assad on a
visit to Syria that he was in danger of falling "on the wrong side of
history" unless he clamped down on Palestinian militants and closed
the border to Arabs crossing into Iraq.
Late last month, Paul Bremer, the American civil administrator in
Iraq, said 123 of the 248 non-Iraqi fighters held by US forces in
Iraq were Syrian.
The hawkish US under-secretary of state, John Bolton, echoed that
message, telling a Congress committee that Syria was still
allowing "volunteers to pass into Iraq to attack and kill our service
He accused Syria of developing "one of the most advanced" chemical
weapons programmes in the Arab world, and seeking technologies "that
could be applied to a nuclear weapons programme".
Only last weekend, the US national security adviser, Condoleezza
Rice, added her own voice, saying said the US is not "working as
constructively with the Syrians as we need to. There is much more
that Syria needs to do, and that message is being communicated to
In the US yesterday, Israel's supporters backed the action, with the
outspoken former Congress leader, Newt Gingrich, among the first to
Israel and Syria are still in an official state of war. Syria's top
foreign policy priority is to end Israel's occupation and annexation
of the Golan Heights.
It is this goal that may have encouraged Syria to see its backing of
Palestinian militants, from Hezbollah to Islamic Jihad and Hamas, as
its only leverage against Israeli military might.
Israeli analysts said yesterday that Israel had calculated that a
strike on Syria would not lead to a wider confrontation. "It was a
clear message to the terrorists and to Syria that these activities
must stop," said Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Mr Sharon.
This summer, in response to US pressure, Syria ordered Palestinian
groups to close their offices. Mr Assad's government, it was said,
also urged them to accept a Palestinian ceasefire - which has since
In August, Israeli planes flew low over Assad's holiday residence, in
what was called a message to rein in Hezbollah.
With Syria calling for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council
yesterday, it appeared to have accepted that any military reaction to
Israel was out of the question.
"I think Syria will denounce this tremendously," said Mr Lesch. "Then
I think this will fade away if no further action is taken - but it
has added a new dose of tension."
BOMB THAT KILLED ARAB AND JEW, CHILD AND ADULT
IN ONE deadly instant, the suicide bombing of a Haifa restaurant
destroyed families, crossed ethnic divides and horrified a country
almost numb to the horrors of such attacks.
The bomber struck at lunchtime on the weekend as families sat down to
eat together at a restaurant overlooking the sea. Four children, an
Israeli military legend and two families were among the 19 killed in
"Families wiped out," read the headline in the Israeli daily Maariv
on Sunday. "Families murdered," the Yediot Ahronot daily wrote.
Bruriya Zer-Aviv, 49, went out for a Saturday lunch with her son
B'tzalel, 30, his wife, Keren, 29, and her two grandchildren, four-
year-old Liran and one-year-old Noya. They all died.
In Kibbutz Yagur, an agricultural village in northern Israel, shocked
community members vowed to help the remnants of the Zer-Aviv family.
"We can never undo this tragedy but we will do all we can to help
what is left of the family," Yagur resident Hillel Leviatan told
Ze'ev Almog, 71, was the legendary former commander of the navy's
officer school in Haifa. His wife, Ruti, 70, his son Moshe, 43, and
his grandson Tomer, nine, all died with him at the family lunch. His
daughter Galit, daughter-in-law Orli and three other grandchildren
were all wounded in the blast.
"To lose in one blow, so many family members, the closest family ...
it is so strange to think of them in the past tense," Rotem Avrutski,
Ze'ev Almog's nephew, told the radio. The navy officer's school was
also mourning the death of Nir Regev, 25, the son of current school
commander Eli Regev.
Maxim restaurant was a rare oasis of Jewish-Arab coexistence. For
four decades the business has been owned by two families - one Arab,
one Jewish. They worked together and died together. Four of the dead
were Arab Israeli workers.
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