Israel Strikes Syrian Radar Station As Indication that Sharon Will Not Tolerate Any Further Hizbullah Attacks
April 16, 2001
Three Syrian soldiers were reportedly killed and five wounded overnight in an Israeli air raid on a Syrian radar station near the Beirut-Damascus highway in eastern Lebanon. Syrian forces were placed on full alert after the warplanes bombed the site, and troop movements were reported in the Lebanese capital. It was the most serious Israeli clash with Syrian forces in over four years. The Lebanese government immediately denounced the raid as "a dangerous escalation." The ominous development came as Israeli forces in northern Israel remained on a heightened state of alert following Saturday's Hizbullah missile attack on an Israeli tank, which left one soldier dead. The completely unprovoked assault–filmed by the radical Islamic group and hailed as another great victory against the cowering Zionist enemy–has raised fears that the growing Iranian-Syrian-Iraqi alliance may be plotting to provoke a major conflict with Israel. Some Israeli analysts say the unity government's attempts to prevent such a conflict may account for the relatively mild military response in the hours after the Saturday strike took place. The "restrained" response was met with severe criticism from some Israeli right-wing politicians on Sunday who said it was sending the wrong signal of weakness and fear to Israel's enemies–the same message sent by the Barak government's unilateral IDF withdrawal from Lebanon last May.
The decision to attack the strategic Syrian target came after Israeli leaders warned the Assad regime in Damascus that it would be held fully responsible for Hizbullah's violent actions in Lebanon. With over 30,000 occupation troops in the tiny country, they say Syria could reign in the extremist militia if it wanted to, although this would certainly upset its powerful Iranian ally. Having unilaterally fulfilled the United Nation's repeated demands that it pull the IDF back to the international border that has existed with Lebanon since 1948, fed up Israeli leaders feel fully justified in responding with great force to any Hizbullah attacks. They say the main excuse that the Iranian-run and heavily-armed militia is using to continue its deadly and dangerous jihad war–that Israel is still occupying a small strip of land in the Mount Hermon foothills–would carry absolutely no water at all if the Syrian regime did not at least tacitly support it. Indeed, the land in question was controlled by Syria, not Lebanon, prior to the 1967 Six Day war. So in the estimation of many Israeli political and military leaders, Syria is blatantly using Hizbullah to "remind" Israel that conflict will continue until the nearby Golan Heights is once more ruled from Damascus. The overnight attack on the Syrian radar site may be a stern warning from the Sharon government that it will not tolerate any further Hizbullah attacks, whatever the regional consequences.
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