Israel early Monday, April 16, sent its warplanes against Syrian positions in Lebanon killing at least two Syrian soldiers including an officer and wounding five, security officials said, after a Hezbollah border attack on an Israeli tank killed a soldier at the weekend.
The officials said an unspecified number of jets bombarded a Syrian radar station in the mountainous region along Lebanon's border with Syria at Dhar al Baydar, 45 kilometers (27 miles) east of Beirut, at 12.30 am Monday (2130 GMT Sunday).
The planes also fired at a Syrian anti-aircraft position two kilometers (more than a mile) away in the Mdeirej-Hammana region near the Beirut-Damascus highway.
The first deliberate attack by Israel against the Syrian army since 1982 came after the death of an Israeli soldier in an attack by the Shiite Hezbollah movement in the disputed Shebaa farms border region on Saturday.
Israel said Monday after the air raid that it would not tolerate "terrorism" by the Hezbollah movement which it said was acting under Syrian patronage. The Israeli government said after a special security cabinet meeting: "Hezbollah's terrorist operations are carried out with the knowledge of Syria and under its patronage." The government called on Lebanon "to deploy its army" on the border with Israel.
The Israeli army said its warplanes attacked the radar post following "heavy fire" by Hezbollah in the last month and particularly at the weekend, when the Israeli soldier was killed.
Israel said it was the eighth attack along the border since its withdrawal from Lebanon in May under UN Security Council Resolution 425 after a 22-year occupation.
"Until now, Israel has demonstrated great restraint in the face of these attacks. However, despite the appeal to Syria to exert its influence on Lebanon, Syria -- without whom this organization cannot operate from Lebanon, and whose army is situated in Lebanon -- has not lifted a finger," the government statement said.
It said the government urged Beirut to deploy its army along the border and called upon Lebanon and Syria "to respect and carry out UN Security Council Resolution 425."
Security officials here said the Israeli planes also made four runs over the Baydar pass, firing six missiles during the raid on the mountainous region overlooking the Bekaa plain in eastern Lebanon.
The officials said ambulances from Shtaura where the Syrian headquarters in Lebanon are located brought back the dead and wounded.
Syrian anti-aircraft batteries went into action for 15 minutes, but the Israeli army said all the warplanes had returned safely to their bases.
At around 1.00 am Monday (2200 GMT Sunday) Israeli aircraft flew over the southern Lebanese city of Tyre on the Mediterranean coast, causing supersonic bangs, an AFP correspondent said, while Israeli naval craft cruised off the coast of south Lebanon.
There was no reaction to the raid in Damascus. Syria's official television ignored the attack in its 5 am news bulletin and the official SANA news agency remained silent.
In Beirut, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri described the Israeli raids as aggression against Syria and Lebanon, calling for the international community to intervene.
He warned against "an Israeli plan to extend the zone of instability in the Middle East" and called in a communique for the international community to "act to contain a dangerous escalation of the violence."
On Sunday, hardline Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had warned Syria and Lebanon that he would not tolerate "terrorism". His defence minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer warned that Israel held Syria and Lebanon fully responsible for the Hezbollah attacks, saying: If they don't rein in Hezbollah, they'll pay the price."
Staff Sergeant Elad Litvak, 22, was the first Israeli soldier to be killed on the border since Sharon took office March 7 and Israel responded swiftly the same day by bombing Hezbollah targets in south Lebanon.
He was the third soldier to be killed in the region since Israel ended its 22-year occupation of its northern neighbor in May last year under UN resolution 425. Another three were captured by Hezbollah in October as "bargaining chips" for Lebanese militants in Israeli jails and their fate remains unknown.
"The Israeli Defence Force has fulfilled entirely UN resolution 425 and the UN has acknowledged Israel's full withdrawal from south Lebanon," the army said in a statement. "Despite that Syria continues to encourage terror attacks against Israel."
The mountainous Shebaa region, which lies at the intersection of Israel, Lebanon and Syria, has been held by the Jewish state since 1967 when it captured the area from Syria.
But since the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon, Shebaa Farms area has been claimed by Beirut and most cross-border attacks by Hezbollah have occurred in that area. —(AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)