Israel threatens pre-emptive strikes on militants in Syria

September 28th, 2004  
Duty Honor Country

Topic: Israel threatens pre-emptive strikes on militants in Syria

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

JERUSALEM -- While it declined to say whether it was responsible for the death of a Hamas leader in Damascus Sunday, Israel accused Syria yesterday of "directing terrorism" and warned of possible pre-emptive strikes against militants in Syrian territory.

In turn, Syria accused Israel of inciting the United States to invade Iraq to distract attention from Israel's own actions.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara used his country's annual address to the U.N. General Assembly opening debate to deliver a fierce critique of Israeli policy.

Israel was hoping, he said, "to incite the Americans first, and then the West, to wage endless wars in the Middle East to underscore the old-new theory of Israel that the Arab-Israeli conflict is not the core of the problems of the region."

Hours before Shara spoke, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim said on Israel Radio that Lebanon, the Jewish state's northern neighbor, was "a central junction in regional terrorism" and President Bashar al-Assad "works there as the traffic officer."

"Syria is responsible for directing this terrorism against us and therefore it cannot be immune to our operations aimed at preventing terror," Boim said.

Asked whether Israel was behind Sunday's killing of Izz el-Deen al-Sheikh Khalil, 42, who Palestinian sources said headed Hamas' military wing outside the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Boim said: "I didn't say that. We don't confirm or deny this."

Channel Two television quoted unnamed security sources as saying Israeli agents had planted the bomb that killed Khalil when he turned the ignition of his car.

In new violence yesterday, an Israeli helicopter missile strike killed a Palestinian militant traveling with other members of the Popular Resistance Committees, an umbrella militant group, in a car in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, medics said.

Shortly afterward, Palestinian gunmen in Gaza City kidnapped an Israeli Arab producer for the CNN television network from a car after asking for him by name.

Earlier, Israeli troops shot dead two fighters trying to plant a bomb near Gaza's border fence, Palestinian security sources said.

On the West Bank, Israeli police arrested a Jewish settler for the shooting death of a Palestinian taxi driver, and in the city of Nablus, soldiers killed two Palestinians during what residents said were confrontations with stone-throwers. Israeli military sources said the troops shot two armed men.