Israelis question logic of attack on Syria
JERUSALEM (AFP) Oct 07, 2003
Israeli politicians and commentators questioned Tuesday the logic of the weekend air strike on Syria in the wake of a suicide attack in Haifa without judging it illegitimate.

Ofir Pines, general secretary of the left-wing opposition Labour party, voiced fears that the raid on a suspected training camp for Palestinian militants northwest of Damascus would further inflame a volatile situation.

"This action could have extremely dangerous consequences and provoke an uncontrollable escalation," he told AFP.

An editorial in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot said the attack early Sunday had achieved the opposite of its objective and highlighted the government's lack of options.

"The bombing of a terrorist base -- which was moreover empty -- in Syria has cancelled out the impact on international opinion of the attack in Haifa, placing Israel in the dock and giving the Syrian regime a certificate of good conduct even though it supports terrorism," the paper said.

Yediot commentator Nahum Barnea argued that the attack, which Syria has condemned as a blatant violation of international law, was "a reasonable and legitimate response".

But he added that, "Unfortunately, all the operations the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) is so good at do not really affect terror."

"As the case of the woman suicide bomber from Jenin demonstrates, for every terrorist who is killed, another comes along who wants to avenge his death."

The Haifa bomber was a 29-year-old female lawyer from Jenin, Hanadi Tayssir Jaradat, whose brother Fadi Jaradat and cousin Saleh Jaradat were killed in an Israeli army operation on June 12.

Both men were members of Islamic Jihad, which promptly recruited Jaradat for her mission.

Dan Margalit, a columnist for the Maariv daily, said that while Syria was a "terrorist state", it had no connection to the attack in Haifa.

"The bombardment of the empty Islamic Jihad training camp north of Damascus is a harmful joke by a helpless government," he wrote.

"It will remain a joke only if it is a one-time event carried out by a frustrated group of ministers and it will become harmful if it is repeated in the future."

The liberal Haaretz daily also took Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to task over the strike in an editorial headlined "A Steep and Slippery Slope".

Sharon said Tuesday that Israel was ready to strike at its enemies at any time and in any fashion it deemed fit.

"The bone of contention is not Israel's right to strike against those who operate against it under the cover of (Syrian President Bashar) Assad... but this does not testify to the wisdom of such moves," it said.

"In the wake of the Israeli operation, the Syrian president could, contrary to Israeli expectations, cause an additional escalation either directly or through agents and the likes of (the Lebanese militia) Hezbollah."

Effie Eitam, housing minister in Sharon's coalition and leader of the ultra-right wing National Religious Party, said the attack on Syria had "missed its target" and Israel would have been better off if it had struck at the Palestinian leadership.