Damascus Promises Revenge for Israeli Attack on Syrian Military
Syria has promised revenge against Israel for its air raid on a Syrian military position in Lebanon, killing at least one soldier and injuring four others, said AFP.
"Israel has made a huge mistake with this aggression and it will pay the price very dearly for it at the right moment," Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara said according to the official SANA agency reporting a declaration he made in Moscow, where he arrived Monday to deliver a message from President Bashar al-Assad to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
"Through its aggressive acts, Israel has widened the area of tension and instability in the Middle East ... it is in the process of killing the peace process," he said and called the raid "a gross violation" of international law.
A Syrian radar station and anti-aircraft defense system were bombarded at Dhar al Baydar, 45 kilometers (27 miles) east of Beirut near the Syrian border early Monday morning.
The raid was the first deliberate attack by Israel upon Syrian forces since 1982. Syria has deployed troops in Lebanon since 1976 and currently maintains some 35,000 troops there.
The state media reported one soldier dead and four others injured, although Lebanese security forces said two soldiers were killed and five others wounded.
Before news of the raids, Syria's official newspaper Tishrin had warned the country was ready to make "the greatest sacrifices" against Israel.
"Since this aggressive entity was created with the support of hostile colonialist forces, our people have been pursuing their struggle and heroic battle, sacrificing thousands of martyrs in Palestine, on the Golan (Heights) and in Lebanon, and on every Arab side subjected to occupation or colonialism," Tishrin said.
Meanwhile, SANA reported numerous demonstrations of support, notably from Hizbollah and Lebanese President Emile Lahoud.
"This is a dangerous development expressing, again, the bloody method of (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon since he came to power, whether on the Palestinian scene or outside," Lahoud said in a statement following a telephone conversation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"This method could lead to a general confrontation," he said.
Ten Palestinian organizations based in Damascus denounced the raids as "part of the criminal Zionist plan elaborated by Sharon against our people."
Syrian intellectuals, who have called for Syria's ruling Baath party to introduce greater political freedom, railed against Israel in a statement, calling the raid a "Zionist aggression" and urging the bolstering of "national unity between Syria and Lebanon," AFP added.
The Israeli bombardment came in retaliation for Hizbollah’s killing Saturday of an Israeli soldier in the Shebaa Farms,
HIZBOLLAH VOWS TO HIT BACK AT 'ISRAELI ENEMY'
The Lebanese resistance movement Hizbollah said Monday that it was personally targeted by the Israeli raid on a Syrian military position in Lebanon and vowed to hit back at the "Israeli enemy" at the right moment, said AFP.
"We are going to cut off the hand of the enemy who dared to attack our land and our brothers", the movement said in a statement, denouncing hardline Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
"We will turn the Sharonian dream of terrorizing our people into a nightmare for the routed army of the Zionist occupation forces", said Hizbollah, which spearheaded resistance against the 22-year Israeli occupation of south Lebanon, which ended last May.
"The Islamic resistance (Hizbollah's armed branch) knows where, when and how to deliver a thunderous blow to the enemy and how to hurt him", the statement added.
At least one Syrian soldier and five others were wounded during the Israeli air raid on the Syrian military position east of Beirut early Monday morning
US HARSH ON HIZBOLLAH, LENIENT ON ISRAEL AS IT CONDEMNS 'DANGEROUS ESCALATION' IN MIDEAST VIOLENCE
The United States on Monday condemned what it called a "dangerous escalation" in Middle East violence and blamed Hizbollah for provoking Israeli air strikes on a Syrian target in Lebanon.
"In the last 48 hours we have seen a dangerous escalation across the withdrawal line that was established by the United Nations," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher was quoted as saying, referring to the so-called "Blue Line" that marks the Lebanese border.
"We condemn this escalation in the cycle of violence that was initiated by Hizbollah in a clear provocation designed to escalate an already tense situation," Boucher told reporters.
He called for "maximum restraint" from all sides and added that Secretary of State Colin Powell had spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon before the air strikes and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres afterwards.
Boucher responding evasively when asked whether Washington was condemning both the initial attack by Hizbollah on Saturday that killed an Israeli soldier and Israel's retaliatory response on the Syrian position that killed at least one soldier.
He answered "Yes" when asked if the United States condemned the Hizbollah attack but when asked whether Washington also condemned the Israeli response, he replied that the United States condemned "the cycle of violence."
"We're condemning the overall violence that is occurring," Boucher said.
"What we saw was an unprovoked attack (by Hizbollah), a clear provocation that was designed to set off a cycle of violence and we think that's where the burden rests," he said.
A senior State Department official later ruled out any harsh public words or condemnation for Israel in its attack.
"We want to be fairly even-handed about this, but the fact is that Hizbollah started this," the official said on condition of anonymity.
"Israel was not bombing Syrian radars in Lebanon before Hizbollah was lobbing anti-tank missiles across the Blue Line," the official added.
But another senior US official said Washington had made clear to Israel privately that it should keep its responses "in check."
"The Israeli action is serious and we would hope they would keep it in check," the second official said. "They are not going to solve the Hizbollah problem by hitting Syria. That will escalate the situation."
Boucher's call for restraint echoed remarks made earlier by White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and in Beirut by US Ambassador to Lebanon David Satterfield, said AFP.
Meanwhile European nations, including Britain, France and Germany, have expressed deep concern over the attack and the chance that it could lead to a serious deterioration.
UN SECRETARY GENERAL CALLS FOR RESTRAINT IN MIDEAST
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Monday urged Israel, Syria and other parties in the Middle East to exercise "utmost restraint" in the wake of Israel's attack on Syrian targets in Lebanon.
A statement released by Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said that the secretary general was "deeply disturbed" by the action by Hizbollah units against Israeli forces last Saturday, and by the heavy Israeli retaliation against Lebanese targets.
"He is especially dismayed by the further escalatory response by Israel in the bombing early today of Syrian positions in Lebanon," the statement said, published on the UN's news site.
It added that Annan, who had been in contact by telephone with regional leaders during the day, remained convinced that political negotiations must be resumed with the least delay to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.
ARAB COUNTRIES CONDEMN ISRAEL'S ATTACKS
Many Arab countries condemned Israel's attack on Syrian targets in Lebanon. While Saudi Arabia criticized US support for the Jewish state
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz said in Tehran Monday that Washington's support of Israel only reinforced the Arab and Islamic countries' backing of the Palestinians, reported Iran's official news agency (IRNA).
"The United States is on Israel's side ... and this pushes the Arabs to put their differences aside and combine forces with all Muslim countries, led by Iran, to defend the Palestinian cause," Price Nayef said, quoted the agency.
Prince Nayef arrived in the Iranian capital on Sunday for a four-day visit expected to include the signing of an historic security accord.
IRNA reported the Saudi minister met Monday with parliament speaker Mehdi Karubi and former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who now heads the powerful Expediency Council arbitration authority, among other officials.
Rafsanjani condemned the "daily barbaric attacks launched by the Zionist regime against the unarmed Palestinian people."
Prince Nayef said Riyadh and Tehran assumed "great responsibility in guaranteeing order and security in the region," according to IRNA.
Meanwhile, Algeria's foreign minister, Abdelaziz Belkhadem, said Monday his country condemned Israeli "aggression against the Lebanese, Palestinians and Syrians" as the situation in the Middle East worsened.
The minister called on the international community to take a firm position against Israel over the attacks, which are retaliation for mortar shelling by Palestinians and the Hizbollah group, reported AFP.
"It is imperative to condemn these aggressions, which prove that the Israeli public and administration do not want peace," he said.
Qatar and the UAE also condemned the Israeli attacks and called on Arab countries to support Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian people.
Also Turkey expressed its concern by the escalating Middle East conflict following Israeli air strikes on Syrian targets in Lebanon.
"The Israeli attacks in the Shabaa Farms sector show the precarious state of the security situation and stability in the region," a foreign ministry statement said - Albawaba.com
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