Israel to strike Syria?

By Aaron Klein

NEW YORK – Israeli leaders warned Syria yesterday that Damascus bears the blame for a double suicide bombing by Hamas militants because it harbors the group’s leadership, and also hinted at possible retaliation and increased targeting of Hamas leaders.

In an initial response to Tuesday’s attack that killed 16 people in a southern Israeli city, Israeli troops blew up the home of one of the bombers and isolated the West Bank city of Hebron, where the attackers lived.

But several Israeli officials told WorldNetDaily the Jewish state must send a strong message to Syria, which openly allows Khalid Meshel, the overall Hamas leader, to operate from Damascus.

“The fact that Hamas is operating from Syria will not grant it immunity,” said Sharon spokesperson Raanan Gissin.

The Israeli army chief, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, said those who support terrorism “cannot sleep quietly at night,” mentioning Palestinian leaders, Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, Syria and Iran.

Sharon added his own implied threat: “Israel’s struggle against terrorism will continue unabated. We will apparently need to decide on additional steps to stop terrorism.”

He did not elaborate.

Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Faysel Mekdad, told WorldNetDaily his country does not harbor terrorists.

“The different Palestinian organizations have information offices in Damascus,” he said. “These factions do not carry out military actions from Syria and are not getting any support from Syria. They are part and parcel of the Palestinian people.”

When informed it’s well-known Meshel is involved in planning terrorism, Mekdad said, “How can a leader in Syria or other Arab countries that I don’t want to mention, orient or make military operations somewhere else? I mean neither logistically nor financially nor from the communications point of view can he do anything like this.”

Last Oct. 5, Israeli planes attacked the training camp of another militant group, Islamic Jihad, outside Damascus, a day after a female suicide bomber blew up a restaurant in the Israeli port city of Haifa, killing 21 people.

But while Israel and Syria are bitter enemies, the air strike was a rare act of violence.

Israel has held Syria’s government partly responsible for years of Hezbollah raids from southern Lebanon and has often threatened Syria. In practice, however, the Israelis hesitate to provoke a conflict with Syria, and their border has been calm for decades.

Security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said Israel would target local Hamas leaders and step up military patrols if the southern West Bank.

“The policy now is to hit Hamas leaders wherever they are,” said a senior Israeli security source.

Top Hamas officials in Gaza, Mahmoud al-Zahar and Ismail Haniyeh, have gone underground since Israel began tracking and killing members of the group’s upper echelons.