That was the unmistakable message of the release by Israeli authorities on Tuesday of a map pinpointing the homes and offices of Palestinian leaders in Damascus.

The army said the map was intended to illustrate the extent of the "Terror Network in the Damascus Region".

It came on the same day Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel would attack its enemies "any place, and in any way".

Sharon would have been buoyed by President George Bush's insistence that Israel has the right to defend itself.

Bush backs 'valid defence'

"The decisions that he (Sharon) makes to defend her people are valid decisions. We would be doing the same thing," Bush told reporters when asked about Sharon's remarks.

Sharon says he will hit Israel's
foes 'anytime and in any way' 

On Sunday, Israeli planes bombed what the Israeli military said was a training camp for Palestinian "terrorists" near Damascus, after a human bombing killed 19 people in Haifa.

Syria said the target of the Damascus strike was a civilian site.

The Israeli army map showed the supposed homes of senior Hamas leaders Musa Abu Marzuk and Khalid Mashal, Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shallah, and Ahmad Jibril, chief of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (General Command).

It also showed 10 sites in Damascus the army said were the political, military and in some cases media offices for Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Fatah and the PFLP-GC.

Assassinations

A Palestinian official, who refused to give his location or affiliation, said: "This step shows that Israel plans to press ahead with its assassinations policy and to give it an international dimension.

"Do they think this will scare a group of people who are willing to die for their cause? If so, this is where they are very wrong. I am dead since 1948 and nothing scares me or any Palestinian man, woman or child."

Another official said in Syria: "This is a very cheap form of blackmail against Syria because it refuses to bow to US and Israeli pressure."

Hamas and Islamic Jihad sources in the West Bank and Gaza Strip said Abu Marzuk, Mashal and Shallah moved between Damascus and Beirut for "security reasons".

Syria, which has been under intense US pressure to kick Palestinian groups out of its territory, says Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian groups maintain only media offices in Damascus.

Tough line

"The map is proof of the extensive presence of Palestinian terror groups in Syria," an Israeli security source said.

Al-Assad says Israel is trying to
drag Syria into a wider conflict

"We said it before and we say it again, everyone that is involved in terror and endangers the lives of Israeli citizens is not immune."

Sharon took a tough line on Tuesday but made no specific threats.

"Israel will not be deterred from defending its citizens and will hit its enemies any place and in any way," he said in a speech broadcast live from a military cemetery in Jerusalem.

More clashes

"At the same time we will not miss any opening and opportunity to reach an agreement with our neighbours and peace."

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, breaking his silence on the attack near Damascus, accused Israel of trying to drag Syria and the rest of the Middle East into a wider conflict.

Analysts predict Israel will step up its campaign to pressure Syria to cut links with Palestinian groups, and expect more clashes with Hizb Allah fighters on the border with Lebanon.

But they also expect it to stop well short of war.