- Bush response to attack on Syria; “Israel must not feel constrained” (Al Bawaba)
- Middle East Tension Could Ignite World Chaos (FinalCall.com)
- Inspecting the Obvious: Israel’s WMD’s and the West’s Double Standard (Palestine Chronicle)
UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) – The war of words continues in response to the October 5 Israeli raid into Syrian territory. Israeli officials claim that the air strike in a refugee camp near a Syrian village, Ain Al Sahib, to the northwest of the capital of Damascus, was in retaliation for the suicide bombing in the city of Haifa, Israel that killed 19 people.
Arab leaders quickly condemned the air strike, warning that it could lead to more violence in the Middle East. Saying that Israel has the “right to defend itself,” United States President George W. Bush refused to criticize Israel. Mr. Bush made his comments after a meeting with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki. The U.S. president said that he had spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon after the raid.
“I made it very clear to the prime minister that Israel has the right to defend itself, that Israel must not feel constrained in terms of defending the homeland,” Mr. Bush told reporters.
According to Reuters, Syrians voiced anger in the streets of Damascus, some even called for reprisals, and many voiced their displeasure at the U.S. reaction.
“There is no sense of right and wrong anymore. Those Americans and Israelis think they are strong, but they forget that God is stronger,” a Syrian told Reuters.
At an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council on October 5 called by Syria, diplomats, with the exception of the U.S. delegation, denounced both the Haifa attack and the raid on Syria. Even the U.S.’ nominal allies in its “war on terror” accused Israel of illegal aggression.
Spanish Ambassador Inocencio Arias told the council that the Haifa bombing “cannot lead us to overlook or minimize the extreme gravity of the attack perpetrated against Syria–that attack is a clear violation of international law.”
The United Kingdom representative, Emyr Jones Parry, said that Israel’s actions were “unacceptable.” He said that he also condemned the Haifa bombing. “However, Israel should not allow its justified anger at continuing terrorism to lead to actions that undermined both the peace process and Israel’s own interests.”
The U.S. representative urged both parties to do nothing that would further heighten tensions. But observers said that the remarks by U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte left no doubt to which side of the fence the world’s lone superpower stood. “We have repeatedly told the government of Syria that it is on the wrong side in the war on terror, and that it must stop harboring terrorists. That is still our view,” Mr. Negroponte said.
And officials at the U.S. State Department buoyed Mr. Negroponte’s position. “We have always seen Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism,” spokesman Richard Boucher said. “We have repeatedly made known our grave concerns about Syrian support for terrorist groups, including Palestinian groups that are engaged in planning and directing terrorist acts. That remains our position,” Mr. Boucher said.
Israeli Defense Forces claim that the area targeted in the Syria strike was used to house members of Islamic Jihad, the militant group that has claimed responsibility for the Haifa attack. But, the Syrian Foreign Ministry insisted the camp was strictly a civilian site. A spokesman for Islamic Jihad denied there was any training bases in Syria, according to the Arab News Network.
In the meantime, an Israeli spokesman, Ranaan Gissina, responding to a CNN question concerning any future attacks against Syrian territory said, “There could be more, there may not be.”
However, the Israeli and American intransigence seems to be uniting the Arab and Muslim world.
Saudi Arabian officials condemned the Israeli attack and voiced its solidarity with Syria, saying the air-strike attack was “a provocative act that will endanger the Middle East peace process and threaten world security.”
“An attack on a brotherly Arab country would push the entire region into a continuous cycle of violence,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Al-Muasher, told the state radio. The Kuwaiti ambassador, Sheikh Mansour Ayyad A. Al-Otaibi, said that his government stood in solidarity with Syria. “Israel’s act of aggression will not give them the sense of security it desires.” Israel, he said, must stop shirking its responsibilities to Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and the principle of land for peace, and withdraw from all Arab territories occupied since 1967.
And, in a joint news conference in Cairo with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak said, “We condemn what happened concerning the aggression against a brotherly state under the pretext that some organization exists there.”
Yahya Mahmassani, Permanemt Observer for the League of Arab States, told The Final Call in a telephone interview that his organization reaffirmed its support and solidarity with Syria and any measures that country must adopt to protect itself against any aggression. He said Israel continued to act with complete impunity, implementing none of the 37 resolutions adopted by the Security Council.
“Israel is naively presenting its acts as part of the fight against terrorism. That battle can only be won when Israel withdraws from the occupied territories,” Mr. Mahmassani said.
However, condemnation of Israel’s air attack does not come just from the Arab and Muslim world.
“Cuba fully supports the Syrian people,” Ambassador Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla said. “A wall is being built to segregate the Palestinian people in the occupied territories,” he stressed. He said Israel was also violating Lebanon’s airspace with its continued attacks in southern Lebanon.
“We must record our very strong concern at the escalation of violence by Israel,” South African Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Aziz Pahad told the Mail & Guardian newspaper, which is located in Pretoria. “We have been warning for some time that if we don’t solve the Palestinian-Israeli issues quickly–if we don’t get the road map moving fast–the danger of it going beyond borders is great,” Mr. Pahad warned, adding, “I think we are sitting on a powder keg right now.”
The fate of a UN resolution condemning the Israeli attack is unclear at Final Call press time. Syria has asked the U.S. not to “block” the Security Council resolution, saying Washington should help relieve the tensions in the Middle East. “The UN must condemn the Israeli raid as a violation of international law and the UN Charter,” Syrian Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad argued.
Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman again accused Syria of “complicity and responsibility” in Palestinian attacks on his nation. “For Syria to ask for a debate of the council is comparable to the Taliban calling for such a debate on 9-11. It would be laughable, if it wasn’t so serious, he said.
Mr. Negroponte has made it clear that the Syrian draft, which made no mention to the Haifa bombing, would not pass. He said there has been no discussion yet of the timing of any vote.
Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al Sharaa, said Damascus, still technically at war with Israel, would exercise restraint, according to the Jordan Times newspaper.