Buoyed by USA backing, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said yesterday his nation would not hesitate to strike at its enemies wherever they were.
Sharon?s threat came two days after Israeli warplanes bombed a Palestinian refugee camp outside Damascus in the first major Israeli attack on Syrian soil in three decades. That bombing came in retaliation for an Islamic Jihad bombing Saturday that killed 19 people in a restaurant in the northern city of Haifa. “Israel will not be deterred from protecting its citizens and will strike its enemies in every place and in every way,” Sharon said at a memorial service for Israeli soldiers killed during the 1973 Middle East war.
The attack on the reported militant base led to widespread international condemnation and fears that the three-year Palestinian uprising could widen to include other neighboring countries. After the attack, Israel accused Syria of harboring and funding Islamic Jihad and also named Iran as a key backer of the militant group. Sharon said Israel had learned lessons from the surprise attack by Syria and Egypt that began the war 30 years ago. “Israel?s might must be cocked and ready at every moment,” he said.
US President George W. Bush insisted on Monday that Israel should not feel constrained in defending itself but said he told Sharon: “It?s very important that any action Israel take(s) should avoid escalation and creating higher tensions.”
Breaking his silence on the attack, Syrian President Bashar Assad accused Israel of trying to drag Syria and the rest of the Middle East into a wider conflict. In an interview with the daily Al-Hayat, Assad said Syria would not yield to US demands to expel Palestinian organizations on Washington?s list of terrorist groups.
“(The raid) is an attempt by the Israeli government to extract itself from its big crisis by trying to terrorize Syria and drag it and the region into other wars,” he said.
Supplied courtesy of Asharq Al-Awsat