On Friday, the quartet involved in negotiating the Middle East road map peace plan - the US, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - urged Syria to take immediate action to close the offices of Islamic Jihad in its country.

The call came in the wake of Islamic Jihad's bombing in an Israel town, Hadera, on Wednesday that killed five people. Islamic Jihad said it carried out the attack in retaliation for the Israeli assassination of one of its leading members earlier in the week.

In an interview with Aljazeera, Ali Abu Shahin, Islamic Jihad's chief of political relations in Lebanon, said the resistance movement carried out no military operations outside Palestine.

"The Islamic Jihad movement mainly exists inside Palestine and the movement has no military activities outside Palestine," Abu Shahin said.

"Everybody knows that the military wings of all Palestinian resistance factions carry out their operations inside Palestine, not outside.

"Islamic Jihad does not understand how the quartet can call on Syria to expel the movement. We, at Islamic Jihad, are a major part of Palestinian society, a big part of which lives outside Palestine as refugees."

Syria is home to more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees, many made homeless as long ago as 1948 when Israel was created.

"No one has the right to call for separating the Islamic Jihad movement from Palestinians living anywhere," Abu Shahin said. 

Incitement
 
On Friday, thousands of Palestinian refugees demonstrated in Damascus in support of Syria and vowed they would defend the country against any US attack.

Washington has not ruled out military action against Syria, which is under pressure after a United Nations report last week named senior Syrian and Lebanese officials as suspects in the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri.

Palestinians joined protests in
Syria against US pressure

Syria has angered the United States by its opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and its tough stance on Israel. Many Palestinians see this as the real motive for US pressure on Syria.

The march drew thousands of supporters of Damascus-based Palestinian groups, such as Fatah Uprising, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLF-GC).

Abu Shahin said the quartet's request was timed to support US objectives in Syria.

"The quartet's call also comes in the context of the US objective to besiege Syria and in the context of incitement against the Palestinian people," he said.

"The international community was supposed to condemn the Israeli escalation against our Palestinian people, which is leading the area into more tension. However, it has adopted an anti-Palestinian position as if it has become a partner in [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon's crimes against the Palestinian people," he added.

Washington, which considers Syria a state sponsor of terrorism, has long demanded that it expel Palestinian resistance groups based in Damascus.