The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 37           October 27, 2003  
 
 
Tel Aviv threatens further attacks on Syria
(feature article)
 
BY SAM MANUEL  
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Two days after Israeli jets bombed targets just 10 miles from the Syrian capital, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon emphasized that there might be further such Israeli attacks. Speaking on the 30th anniversary of Tel Aviv’s war against Syria and Egypt—the last time that Israeli forces attacked Syrian territory—Sharon said, “Israel will not recoil from defending its citizens and will strike its enemies in every place and with any means.”

On the same day U.S. president George Bush reiterated his administration’s backing for the action. “I have consistently said that Israel should defend himself,” he said. The White House, which condemns Syria as a backer of “terrorism,” has given approval to a package of anti-Syria sanctions that is now proceeding through Congress with bipartisan support.

The October 4 attack injured several people and destroyed buildings at Ain Saheb, described by people in nearby villages as a deserted camp. Israeli government spokespeople claimed that the site is used for training by the Palestinian organizations Islamic Jihad and Hamas—part of their constant theme that Syria, along with Iran, provides funds and safe harbor to several Palestinian organizations. In an October 10 statement, U.S. state department spokesman Adam Ereli backed this account, saying, “Our intelligence indicates that it was a camp in active use by terrorist organizations.”

Tel Aviv seized on the suicide bombing in Haifa the previous day to spread its war against the Palestinian people. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing, in which 19 people were killed.

Speaking on October 7, Israeli vice prime minister Ehud Olmert said that the security cabinet had decided to bomb the camp almost two months ago after the suicide bombing of a bus killed 23 people, but had postponed the action.

Ranaan Gissin said that following that incident the government had decided that “there would be no limitations, not even geographic, to get the leadership or the infrastructure of the terrorist groups.” The Israeli armed forces have waged a campaign of “targeted killings”—Tel Aviv’s euphemism for assassinations against Palestinian leaders.

CNN reported on October 7 that Gissin had told them that the government “is not ruling out another attack in Syria.” According to the report, Gissin “said that Syria is the ‘critical part’ of what he called an ‘axis of terror’ among Iran, Syria, and Palestinian militants.

“There could be more [air strikes], there could be not,” he said.

Gissin told CNN that “Iran is not a target,” but called for economic and political pressure on Tehran to force it to back off its alleged support for militants in Lebanon—a reference to Hezbollah. Gissin also said that Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat is “living on borrowed time.”

Reinforcing Tel Aviv’s threat of further attacks, the head of Israel’s northern command, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Gantz, said on October 7 that Lebanon and Syria’s continued support for Hezbollah and other Palestinian organizations would be met with retaliation. The day after the strike on Syria an Israeli soldier was killed in a brief, intense firefight with Hezbollah guerillas on the Israel-Lebanon border.

In response to the October 4 attack, Syria placed a motion before the United Nations Security Council condemning “the military aggression carried out by Israel against the sovereignty and territory of the Syrian Arab Republic.” The council did not vote on it. The representative of the United States—one of the five permanent members with veto power—said that he would veto the resolution.

Security Council representatives of the French and British governments condemned both the Israeli raid and Palestinian “terrorism.”

“Israel’s action is unacceptable,” said London’s ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry.

“Israel should not allow its justified anger at continuing terrorism to lead to actions that undermine both the peace process and we believe Israel’s own interests.”  
 
Moscow: need ‘balanced’ statement’
Russian deputy foreign minister Yuri Fedotov said the Syrian motion needed to be “more balanced. In particular, we think it should include a clause on the need to stop terrorist attacks in the region.”

The Arab League, which includes a number of governments in the Middle East, held an emergency session in Cairo. Its statement described the Israeli aggression as “a serious escalation.”

On October 8 the House of Representatives’ International Relations Committee approved a proposal for a series of economic and diplomatic sanctions against Syria. White House spokesman Scott McClellan announced the same day that the administration would drop its previous opposition to the package. “We have repeatedly said that Syria is on the wrong side of the war on terrorism and that Syria needs to stop harboring terrorists,” he said.

The new package includes a ban on the sale to Syria of so-called “dual-use technology” that could allegedly have military applications. The sanctions would also prohibit U.S. oil and other companies from operating in Syria; restrict Syria’s U.S.-assigned diplomats and reduce or remove diplomatic contacts between the two countries; deny landing rights to Syrian airlines; and freeze Syrian assets in the United States.

The impact of the package will be limited, reported the Washington Post, since Washington has already imposed heavy sanctions on the Middle Eastern country. Trade between the two countries clocks in at only $300 million a year.

The proposal passed the House committee by 33 votes to two. A spokeswoman for the external relations commissioner of the European Union—a grouping dominated by major imperialist allies and rivals of Washington—reacted critically, saying, “We are in the process of negotiating an association agreement with Syria. The policy of isolating Syria is not the most productive.”

Washington has stepped up its pressure on both Syria and Iran to abandon weapons programs and halt funding and support to Palestinian organizations. Five months ago, on May 2, the day after Bush declared victory in the U.S.-British war on Iraq, U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell called on the Syrian government to clamp down on several Palestinian organizations with offices in Damascus.

Although the government says these facilities have been closed, Washington and Tel Aviv assert that representatives of Islamic Jihad and other groups continue to function.

The Israeli strike against Syria coincided with army attacks in the occupied territories, as Israeli helicopters destroyed two houses in the Gaza Strip, and troops laid siege to Jenin on the West Bank. In the early morning hours of October 10, Israeli soldiers backed by helicopter gunships shot their way into the Rafah refugee camp, killing six Palestinians, including an eight-year-old boy and youths aged 15 and 17. Officers said they were searching for weapons-smuggling tunnels connecting Gaza with Egypt. A seventh Palestinian youth died in the afternoon.

In recent weeks Tel Aviv has reimposed a blanket ban on Palestinians from the territories entering Israel. Under the so-called “general closure,” 3.5 million Palestinians will be prevented for entering Israel. In addition, they are barred from traveling from one Palestinian town to another. The New York Times reported that government officials said “the army would maintain ‘a full encirclement on all of the Palestinian cities in the West Bank,’ while the Gaza Strip has been cut into four sections, with Palestinians unable to move from one to another.”  
 
 
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