Israeli threats raise regional tensions

Israel has vowed to strike its enemies at will amid a flare-up on its border with Lebanon after its deepest air attack into Syria since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

    Syrian leader vowed not to close down resistance groups' offices

    Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said on Tuesday his country was ready to “hit its enemies any place, any way”, two days after attacking an alleged Islamic Jihad training camp near Damascus.

    The resistance group denied maintaining military bases in Syria and said the Israeli strike targeted a civilian area.

    Sharon made no specific threat. But tensions along Israel’s border with Lebanon jumped up a notch overnight after an Israeli soldier died and a six-year-old Lebanese boy was killed. 
      
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in his first public comments on Israel's weekend air strike near Damascus, accused Israel of trying to drag Damascus and the rest of the Middle East into a wider conflict.

    Sharon “lives by and for war, and there is not a person in the world who believes peace is possible with such a government”, al-Assad told the pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat.

    One person was injured in the attack, which was widely condemned by the international community.

    Presence of groups


     

    The Syrian president, who took the seat of power in 2000 after his father Hafiz al-Assad died, said the Israeli attack would only strengthen Damascus’ determination to play an even more effective role in the region.

    Ariel Sharon “lives by and for war, and there is not a person in the world who believes peace is possible with such a government”

    Bashar al-Assad,
    Syrian president

    Israel and its main ally the United States have demanded Syria should expel Palestinian resistance groups.

    “We are not going to expel them because they have not harmed Syria and have not broken Syrian laws and most of all, because they are not terrorists,” said al-Assad.  

    Fears are mounting that Israel is opening new fronts in the Middle East.

    Israeli army commander Major General Benny Gantz issued an ominous warning to Syria, Iran and Lebanon on Tuesday, saying: “If these three states are not careful, the situation is likely to deteriorate.”

    Lebanon front

    Earlier on Tuesday, a missile slammed into a home in the south Lebanon border village of Hula, killing the owner's grandchild. The dead boy's eight-year-old brother was also injured.

    The origin of the projectile is still unclear. But witnesses said an Israeli warplane was seen hovering over the border area after it struck.

    The child's death came hours after an Israeli sergeant died on the Lebanon border. Two other soldiers were reportedly wounded.

    Israel accused Hizb Allah resistance fighters for the death of its soldier, but the Lebanese group denied its forces were involved.

    Uncle of Lebanese child killed 
    holds up bloodied sheets

    The managing editor of Lebanon's al-Safir newspaper, Mutaz Midani, pointed out that Hizb Allah would never deny a resistance attack if it had been responsible for it.

    The death of the Israeli sergeant may have been caused by an individual angry with the Jewish state's attacks in the occupied Palestinian territories and Syria, Midani told Aljazeera.

    Israel again raised tensions after firing shells into the occupied Shiba farms' region without causing injuries, said Lebanese security forces.

    On Monday, Israeli troops opened fire on a bus travelling along a road near the border between the villages of Adasiah and Kfar Kila. There were no casualties.

    Hizb Allah was formed as a resistance group in the early 1980s, following Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Backed by Syria and Iran, it spearheaded resistance efforts to oust Israeli troops from south Lebanon in May 2000, following a 22-year occupation.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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