Israel threatens Syria over Hizbollah
JERUSALEM: Israel threatened Syria on Monday after Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon fired anti-aircraft shells that killed an Israeli teenager on Israel’s northern border, but said it hoped to defuse tension through diplomacy.
Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Zeev Boim said Israel held Syria responsible for Hizbollah’s actions. “Syria is definitely the umbilical cord from which Hizbollah feeds,” he told Army Radio. “If there is escalation from their side, there will be definitely be a clear military response from Israel that could inevitably be against Syrian targets.” Israeli warplanes bombed an anti-aircraft battery on the edge of a south Lebanon village on Sunday in retaliation. Israeli warplanes later flew over Beirut.
Mr Boim signalled that Israel did not for now plan further military action, saying diplomatic pressure “could be an effective tool as well”. In Beirut, Hizbollah threatened renewed anti-aircraft fire if Israeli aircraft entered Lebanese airspace again. Mr Boim said Israeli flights, which he called reconnaissance missions, would continue.
Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said the Israeli overflights were akin to “air terrorism” and to blame for the spat with Hizbollah. “The cause of the latest incidents in the south are daily Israeli air violations that the United Nations has condemned for years following the liberation of the south from Israeli occupation,” Mr Lahoud said in a statement. The UN called for calm. “We are appealing to all sides...to stop this type of potential escalation. Overflights should not take place over Lebanon,” said Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy for Lebanon. —AFP/Reuters