Israel Accuses Syria of Being Behind Hizballah Cross-Border Terror
July 7, 2008 - 8:13 PM
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israel is demanding that Syria rein in Hizballah along its northern border or face the consequences after an Israeli teenager was killed by Hizballah anti-aircraft fire on a northern Israeli community this weekend.
But Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman Dr. Ra'anan Gissin said Israel is not interested in an escalation of the situation and is relying on diplomacy to get the message to Damascus - the main powerbroker in Lebanon - that attacks against Israel must stop.
Israel has passed a warning on to Syria through the U.S. and the United Nations, and Israel is waiting to see how Damascus would respond, Israel Radio quoted unnamed sources as saying.
Haviv Dadon, 16, was killed when anti-aircraft shells fired by Hizballah landed in the northern border town of Shlomi at about 12:30 on Sunday as he was going home from his summer job for the day. Four other civilians were also wounded in the attack, including a woman and her eight-month-old baby, reports said.
Israel retaliated by sending Air Force planes to attack the western sector of Lebanese territory, bombing the cannon position from where the deadly shells had been fired.
Hizballah claimed that it had fired the shells in response to the over flight of Israeli jets, but the Israeli army said no planes had been in the area at the time.
Military sources also said that the angle of the shell firing indicated that the Hizballah had intended to target civilian centers and was not firing at aircraft.
The army spokesperson called the firing of shells "acts of terror against residents of the north."
It is the first time an Israeli civilian has been killed by anti-aircraft fire since Israel unilaterally pulled its troops out of southern Lebanon more than three years ago.
On Friday, Hizballah fired anti-tank and mortar shells at Israeli army positions along the eastern section of the border at Mt. Dov (Sheba Farms), claiming it was in retaliation for the assassination of Ali Hussein Salah, a Hizballah operative who died when his car blew up in Beirut on August 2.
Hizballah blamed Israel for the blast that killed Salah, who was reportedly the group's main liaison with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
Gissin charged that Syria is the "key" to all movement in Lebanon. Israel is passing a message to Syria that it must take action against terrorism immediately as it pledged to do during a recent visit of Secretary of State Colin Powell, he said.
"Syria must restrain Hizballah, remove Hizballah from the border and take steps it pledged to take during the visit of Secretary of State Powell," Gissin said in a telephone interview.
Those steps should include, not supporting terrorism nor harboring terrorists, stopping support for Hizballah, and cutting off assistance to the group, as well as removing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards from Lebanon, Gissin said.
Israel will know when Syria has complied, he said, when Hizballah stops its attacks against Israel and the Lebanese army is deployed in southern Lebanon.
"We're not interested in escalation but we will not tolerate attacks against our civilians," Gissin said. Israel will only use "military force" as a "last resort" he said, preferring diplomacy.
Deputy head of Hizballah Naim Kassem was quoted in an interview with Dubai-based television station Al Arabia saying that his organization is not interested in an escalation of violence but would continue to apply pressure on Israel to leave the Sheba Farms area.
Kassem also said that Hizballah is coordinating its actions with Lebanon and Syria.
Gissin argued that there is no reason for Hizballah to attack Israel except to "justify its existence" and charged that the escalation was the result of non-compliance with U.N. resolutions by Syria and Lebanon.
Israel withdrew from a swath of land it had maintained for some 18 years in southern Lebanon as a "security zone" to protect its northern border in May 2000, according to U.N. resolution 425.
Under the resolution, Lebanon was to have deployed its troops in the south, but it did not do so. Hizballah, on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, became the de facto ruler of southern Lebanon.
The U.N. delineated a "border," the so-called blue line between Israel and Lebanon leaving most of an area previously owned by Syria - Mt. Dov or Sheba Farms - under Israeli control until Israel and Syria come to a peace agreement. But Hizballah has continued to use that small area as a pretense for maintaining its attacks against Israel.
Israel had already complained to the U.N. Security Council on Saturday over escalations in attacks across the border.
Lebanon, meanwhile, lodged its own complaint with the Security Council on Sunday against what it called Israel's "aggression, threats and continuous provocative violations of Lebanese airspace and sovereignty."
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan issued a statement on Sunday condemning the Hizballah attack, saying it represented a "serious violation of the blue line and of Security Council resolutions," but calling on Israel to exercise restraint.
Annan urged "all governments that have influence on Hizballah to deter it from any further actions which could increase the tension in the area."
Since Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon, Hizballah has launched 156 cross-border attacks against Israel including mortar shell, anti-tank shell, anti-craft fire, roadside bombings and shooting attacks, in which six civilians and eight soldiers were killed, including three who were kidnapped and later declared dead, and 46 soldiers and 14 civilians were wounded.
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