TEL AVIV Ñ Israeli warplanes have bombed a Syrian training camp in
the first such attack in more than 20 years.
Israeli military sources said F-16 fighter-jets struck the Ain Saheb
base 15 kilometers northwest of Damascus on early Sunday, hours after 19
Israelis were killed in an Islamic Jihad suicide strike in the northern city
of Haifa. The sources said the F-16s dropped several bombs and fired
missiles toward buildings in the training base.
The base was said to have been used by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine for training of their members, Middle East Newsline reported.
The sources said many of the Palestinian insurgents, financed by Iran, were
then sent to the West Bank where they provided training to other
The sources said this was the first time in more than 20 years that
Israel's military struck deep into Syria. The sources said Syrian gunners
did not fire toward the Israeli warplanes.
On Saturday, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew herself up in a restaurant in the
northern city of Haifa on Saturday, killing 19 people and injuring 55. The
bomb was said to have been filled with shrapnel, which ripped through the
patrons of the restaurant, many of whom were children.
Palestinian sources said the bomber was a 29-year-old woman whose family
was linked to the Islamic Jihad. The sources said the woman, Hanadi Jaradat,
was an attorney in the West Bank city of Jenin whose brother and father were
killed in Israeli military operations in July.
"Syria is a state that supports terror, that constantly tries to frustrate efforts to bring calm and stability to the region and gives cover in its territory and capital to the terror organizations that act against Israeli citizens," said a statement by the Israeli army.
"Israel will not accept the rules of the game that the terrorists are trying to dictate, and will act with determination against all who harm its citizens, in accordance with the right to self defense and defense of the state," it said.
On April 16, 2001, Israeli warplanes blasted a Syrian radar station in Lebanon, where Syria is the main power broker, killing three Syrian soldiers. That strike was the first in five years against the Syrian military and came in retaliation for an attack by Syrian-backed guerrillas in which an Israeli soldier was killed.
Syria closed the offices of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad after the U.S. invasion of Iraq after being warned by the United States to stop its support of terrorist organizations.
Israeli officials said the security guard at the restaurant failed to
detect the suicide bomber. They said Palestinian
bombers have not been deterred by the security presence around Israeli
The Israeli victims included a former senior commander of the Israeli
navy and several other prominent Israelis. One of those injured was the
coach of a leading Israeli soccer team.
"This operation proves the failure of all security measures undertaken
by the occupation forces, including the siege and building walls to prevent
Palestinian factions from carrying out attacks against Israel," Hamas leader
Abdullah Shami said.
Authorities have been on high alert for the prospect that another
Palestinian suicide bomber has entered Israel and plans to attack a civilian
target. Officials said the bombers were believed to have been sent by the
Islamic Jihad from the northern West Bank and harbored by Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met his military and security chiefs to
discuss an Israeli response to the Palestinian attack. Officials said Sharon
and his aides have been in consultations with the United States over the
prospect of expelling Palestinian Authority Yasser Arafat.
"We have to destroy the terrorist infrastructure," Deputy Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert said. "We will first do it in Gaza [Strip], but also in Nablus
and Jenin. We have to make tough decisions."
Arafat has expressed condemnation of the attack and telephoned an
Israeli Arab mayor whose constituents were among the victims of the Haifa
suicide strike. Officials said Israeli military chiefs have expressed
opposition to the expulsion of Arafat, who has now been surrounded by
several human shields from Israel and the West.
Overnight Sunday, Israeli combat helicopters attacked three Islamic
insurgency targets in the Gaza Strip. Two
arsenals of the Jihad were attacked Ñ one in Gaza City and the other in the
Bureij refugee camp.