Buoyed by US support, a belligerent Sharon said on Tuesday that Israel "will hit its enemies in any place and in any way" having struck what it called a "terrorist camp" in Syria on Sunday a day after a Palestinian bomber killed herself and 19 others in Israel.

"The Israeli government is a government of war and cannot continue without war," the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) quoted Assad as saying.

Assad made the remarks during a meeting with the UN's top Middle East envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, who has urged Syria and Israel to avoid a wider conflict following the Israeli raid, which Damascus said was on a civilian area.

Further targets

In Jerusalem, a senior Israeli military official said later on Thursday the raid was intended as a message to Syria that its territory would be "part of the game" if it continued giving support and safe haven to Palestinian factions behind attacks on Israelis.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israeli intelligence had detected several other "terrorist" training camps in Syria and also considered the Lebanese guerrilla group Hizb Allah and Iran as major security threats.

Syrian state radio said Damascus was capable of defending itself although it preferred a diplomatic answer to the Israeli aggression.

"Syria is capable of defending itself and has options in this regard but Syrian (policy) is not based on reactions and Syria will not be dragged into stances that do not serve its interests and those of Arabs," the radio said in an official commentary.

'State terrorism'

Syria's envoy to Spain said on Wednesday Damascus would respond militarily if Israel launched more attacks. Later an official source in Damascus said the envoy's comments were his "personal understanding of the official position".

 Ariel Sharon has threatened further attacks on Syrian soil

The radio also accused Israeel of practising "state terrorism with American support" and of pushing the region towards an uncertain future.

It said a move on Wednesday to advance legislation to impose sanctions against Syria by a committee of the US House of Representatives "serves as a blessing for its (Israel's) aggression and unlimited escalation".

In the first official reaction to the vote, the radio said, "Syria rejects the logic of threats and warnings and sanctions and refuses Israeli requests delivered through American mouths."

Traditionally tense Syrian-US relations have been strained further since the start of the US-led war in Iraq. Washington accuses Syria of not doing enough to block the flow of Islamic fighters to Iraq and of developing chemical weapons.

Syria, which denies the US charges, is already under US sanctions over its support for anti-Israel Palestinian and Lebanese guerrilla groups.