israel threatens syria with pre-emptive strike

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    Israel Threatens Syria With Pre-Emptive Strike
    Hisham Abu Taha & Agencies

    JERUSALEM, 28 September 2004 — Israel accused Syria yesterday of “directing terrorism” and said it could face pre-emptive strikes against “militants” on its territory, but stopped short of saying it killed a Hamas leader in Damascus.

    Syria had accused Israel of terrorism following the Palestinian leader’s death in a car bombing on Sunday. Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim said Syria was “a central junction in regional terrorism”, including Palestinian violence against Israel. “Syria is responsible for directing this terrorism against us and therefore it cannot be immune to our operations aimed at preventing terror,” Boim said on Israel Radio.

    Asked whether Israel was behind the killing of Ezzeddine Sobhi Sheikh Khalil, 42, who Palestinian sources said headed Hamas’s military wing outside the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Boim said: “I didn’t say that. We don’t confirm or deny this.” Syria’s state news agency quoted an official source on Sunday as saying: “This terrorist act represents a grave development for which Israel shoulders responsibility as it stresses its intent to shake (regional) security and stability”.

    Meanwhile, seven Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in the occupied territories yesterday as a surge of violence swept the region. In the southern Gaza Strip, one Palestinian was killed and two others injured when an Israeli attack helicopter fired on a car near the town of Khan Yunis, Palestinian security sources and medics said. The missile hit the car of Mohamed Abu Nassira, a military leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, a group composed of former members of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah party. But it was not immediately clear if he was the one killed in the strike.

    Earlier, troops shot dead two other members of the Popular Resistance Committees in the northern Gaza Strip who were trying to plant a bomb near the border fence with Israel, sources on both side said. The Popular Resistance Committees named the two as Hassan Daher, 19, and Mohammed Askar, 21, from the Jabalia refugee camp just north of Gaza City.

    Israeli military sources said troops had shot two Palestinians seen crawling with explosives toward the security fence. Further south, 60-year-old Said Al-Madhun was shot dead while standing in the playground of a UN-run school in the Khan Yunis refugee camp.

    In the northern West Bank, two stone-throwing Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops in Nablus’ Balata refugee camp, Palestinian medical and security sources said.

    In a tough-talking speech to the UN General Assembly, Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq Shara lashed out at “extremist and intolerant policies” of Israel aimed at finding “a new enemy under any pretext after the fall of the Soviet Union.”

    “We refer to the arguments promoted by Israel that the situation in Iraq and its repercussions is more dangerous and complicated than that prevailing in the occupied Arab territories,” he said.

    “Israel bears an important share of the responsibility for intensifying and worsening the American predicament in Iraq by avoiding the resumption of the peace process despite the hand extended in peace by the Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese,” he said.

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