Thu, Oct 04, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Israel belatedly admits attacking Syria on Sept. 6


A usually talkative Israel partially lifted an uncharacteristically effective news blackout, allowing Israel-based reporters to say that Israeli aircraft attacked a military target in Syria nearly a month ago, bringing Israel's military censorship into a rare spotlight.

Relaxing the ban on Tuesday, the censor allowed reporters in Israel to say that the Sept. 6 attack took place -- but no more.

The reticence reflects Israel's concern over deepening tensions and the danger of provoking an armed conflict with its northern neighbor. The military and political leaders have been uncharacteristically tightlipped.

Over the past month, the incident has sparked furious and conflicting reports in the foreign press, claiming that Israel had attacked an arms shipment to Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon or a nuclear installation built with North Korean help, or that the mission was an attempt to gauge Syria's air defenses.

Israel's military censor has taken an unusually tough line on coverage of the incident. The censor's subtle policy change -- permitting reports of the attack without appending the world "alleged" or crediting foreign sources -- was the closest thing to a confirmation Israel has issued.

The announcement was widely seen as an official admission.

"Now it can be revealed: Israel attacked in Syria," read a headline on the Maariv newspaper's Web site.

Israel is a high-decibel country with an aggressive press corps, and leaks from politicians and army officers are the norm. But for nearly a month, Israeli officials have maintained silence about the attack.

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