Wed, Oct 08, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Israel will strike `in every place,' Sharon promises

AP , JERUSALEM

Syrian President Bashar Assad, center, wearing a suit, places a wreath at a war memorial in Damascus on Monday. Monday marked the 30th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, when Syria tried to reclaim the Golan Heights that it lost to Israel in the1967 Mideast War.

PHOTO: AFP

In his first public comments since an Israeli airstrike against Syria, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said yesterday his nation would not hesitate to strike at its enemies wherever they were.

Sharon's threat came two days after Israeli warplanes bombed a suspected Islamic Jihad training base outside the Syrian capital of Damascus in the first major Israeli attack on Syrian soil in three decades. That bombing came in retaliation for an Islamic Jihad suicide bombing Saturday that killed 19 people in a restaurant in the northern city of Haifa.

"Israel will not be deterred from protecting its citizens and will strike its enemies in every place and in every way," Sharon said at a memorial service for Israeli soldiers killed during the 1973 Middle East war.

The attack on the reported militant base led to widespread international condemnation and fears that the three-year Palestinian uprising could widen to include other neighboring countries. After the attack, Israel accused Syria of harboring and funding Islamic Jihad and also named Iran as a key backer of the militant group.

However, Sharon also said he was open to peace overtures.

"We will not miss any openings or opportunities to reach an arrangement with our neighbors and comprehensive peace," he said. "Only with this combination can we be sure that this generation will see with its own eyes the end of this war and will reach the gates of peace."

The attack on Syria led to an escalation of tensions along the border between Israel and Lebanon, where Syria is the main power-broker.

Early yesterday, a Lebanese boy was killed in an explosion in a village near the border with Israel. Hours earlier, an Israeli soldier was killed in a cross-border shooting.

Israel's Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday that the security Cabinet decided at a meeting on Aug. 19 -- following a Hamas bus bombing that killed 23 people -- to target an Islamic Jihad training camp near Damascus, but postponed the air raid for operational reasons.

After the Haifa suicide bombing Saturday, the army said it was possible to carry out the operation near Damascus, and a group of senior Cabinet ministers approved the air raid, Olmert said.

Israeli warplanes bombed the training camp -- which apparently has been abandoned for some time -- early Sunday.

"We have no limitations regarding the targets and the goals so long as they are, in the end, connected to the terrorist acts," Olmert told Israel Radio.

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