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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Israel Threatens To Attack Syria

JERUSALEM: Israel has attacked Syrian targets in the past and will do so again if it feels this will stop Damascus-based groups from attacking Israeli targets, a senior defense official said Sunday, accusing Syria of being behind a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv over the weekend.

Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim said an Israeli attack will “send a message to (Syrian President Bashar) Assad” that he must clamp down on Islamic groups based in Damascus.

Israel’s Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz also blamed Syria for Friday’s bombing, but stopped short of threatening to attack.

Vice Premier Shimon Peres said the United States is currently leading “an initiative” against Syria, and Israel has to allow it to do so. Israel has attacked Syrian installations after accusing Damascus-based Islamic groups of masterminding, coordinating and overseeing attacks in Israel.

Sharon presses Abbas: Israeli leader Ariel Sharon demanded on Sunday the Palestinians smash militant groups after a Tel Aviv suicide bombing, saying he would freeze peace efforts and take military action if they did not heed his call.

Addressing his cabinet in forceful tones, the prime minister said leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad faction in Syria ordered the attack that killed four Israelis on Friday, violence that shattered a de facto truce that had raised hopes for peace.

Sharon, hammering out Israel’s bedrock conditions for resuming talks on a final peace settlement with the Palestinians, said the time had come for Abbas to confront militants rather than try to co-opt them.

“There will not be any diplomatic progress, I repeat, no diplomatic progress, until the Palestinians take vigorous action to wipe out the terror groups and their infrastructure in the Palestinian Authority’s territory,” Sharon said.

He said Abbas’s “immediate test” after the bombing at a Tel Aviv nightclub was to act against Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the first deadly Palestinian attack in Israel since November. The Palestinian Authority strongly condemned the bombing and said it had arrested three suspects in the West Bank on Saturday.

Syria backs peace efforts: Syria said on Sunday it supported Palestinian peace efforts with Israel and a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv contradicted its policy.

“Syria has been supporting the efforts of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in creating an environment that would allow for peace and the creation of a Palestinian state and we will continue to do so,” a Foreign Ministry official told Reuters.

“This operation harms the efforts of the Palestinians (for peace) and gives Israel a pretext to bash the peace process ... it contradicts Syrian policy,” the official said. On Saturday, Damascus denied any link to the bombing and said the Damascus office of Islamic Jihad had been closed. agencies

Daily Times


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