Israel hints it could hit targets in Syria

02/09/2004 Israel and Hamas Thursday traded warnings of possible attacks in the wake of the Tuesday bus bombing in Be’er Sheva, as Deputy Defense Minister Ze’ev Boim said Israel should should consider military against targets within Syria. Senior Hamas official Osama Hamda Thursday cautioned Israel that the militant Islamic organization “will not sit idly by” if Israeli forces attempt to assassinate its leaders aboad. Hamas has said in the past that it would view such an attack as a “green light” to attack Israeli targets overseas. Boim, discussing Israel’s charges that Damascus bore responsibility for the Tuesday suicide bombings that killed 16 people, said Thursday that “The rule that ‘anyone who deals in terror against Israel is a target’ is a rule that must be stated and one that we must stand behind.” Israel would in any event take care not to cause a “conflagration” if it were to attack again on Syrian soil, Boim added.

“I believe that it is possible to carry out these attacks by correct selection of targets, in the correct ‘dosage,’ placing the red lines that must be placed, without thinking in terms of massive conflagration, which is certainly not in our interest,” Boim said in remarks broadcast on Israel Radio. Government sources have fingered Moussa Abu Marzook, a senior Hamas official now residing in Damascus who is also wanted by the United States, as the individual behind the bombings. News reports have also mentioned Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, also based in the Syrian capital. “There is no immunity, and if there is a need, we will act,” Boim said. Israel has provided the United States with “concrete evidence” of Syrian involvement in the bombings, Israel Radio reported Thursday. Asked about the evidence, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom declined to respond directly, but said, in an apparent reference to the Damascus-based Hamas command: “Syria is involved in terror all the time. Syria is responsible for acts of terrorism and granting patronage for terror, and therefore we view it as responsible the moment that those organizations receive direct orders from their headquarters in Damascus. “When Syria is responsible, it must of course understand that there are some quite clear results.” Less than a year ago, the Israel Air Force attacked targets in Syria in response to a deadly bombing at a popular seaside restaurant in Haifa. Shalom, who is leaving for Holland for talks with EU foreign ministers, said “As a matter of principle, in the past we have not rushed to attack Syrian targets. When that it done, it will be done after in our opinion that Syria has crossed the red line.” Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Wednesday that “a large portion of the terrorism in the territories” comes from Hamas headquarters in Damascus and Hezbollah in Lebanon. You cannot separate what happened in Be’er Sheva from what is going on in Lebanon.” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon also blamed the Be’er Sheva bombing on Hamas headquarters in Damascus, and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon threatened with unspecified reprisals. “Anyone who is responsible for terrorism against us should not sleep quietly,” said Ya’alon, when asked by Knesset reporters how Israel would respond to Tuesday’s suicide bombings. “We will deal with all those who support terror, at every level – people in the Palestinian Authority; people in Hezbollah in Lebanon; people in the terrorist headquarters in Damascus, which operate with Syria’s permission; and also the financial support and weaponry that is transferred to the terrorist organizations under Iran’s auspices.” He declined to give any details of what Israel’s response might be. BPI-info