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Attack syria { June 18 2002 }

U.S. prevented major Israeli attack on Syria

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

TEL AVIV The United States blocked a major military offensive by Israel against
Syria last month, but shares Israeli concerns that the regime of Syrian President
Bashar Assad is openly arming Hizbullah and Palestinian militants.

Israeli officials said the attack was to have taken place last month in response to a
spate of Hizbullah strikes along the Lebanese border with the Jewish state. The
officials said Israel's military had mobilized its reserves for what they termed was
to have been a heavy blow on Syrian military positions in Lebanon and Syria,
Middle East Newsline reported.

On Monday, the Qatari daily Al Sharq, quoting Hizbullah sources, reported that
Israeli Mossad agents in cooperation with the United States tried to assassinate
Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah on June 6 in Beirut.

But the plan was foiled when Nasrallah stayed home from an Islamic conference
scheduled that day because of the flu.

"Only international intervention and somebody up there recovered and saved them
from a harsh military blow," David Magen, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs
and Defense Committee, said.

Magen said that for months Israel had been concerned over Syria's support for
Hizbullah and its aim to open a second military front with Israel. The parliamentary
committee chairman said Syrian President Bashar Assad ignored previous Israeli
warnings and openly allowed Iran to arm Hizbullah and Palestinian insurgency
groups based in Damascus.

Officials said the turning point for Syria came during a weekend visit by U.S.
Secretary of State Colin Powell to Damascus in April. They said Powell warned
Assad that Israel was preparing a massive attack on Syria and that Washington
would not restrain the Jewish state.

Magen said Israeli military and political leaders appear baffled by Assad's
willingness to escalate tension. He said many attribute this to the inexperience by
the new president.

"He doesn't know that military defeat is," Magen said. "Maybe when he does know
he will think differently. When he was asked to lower tension, he did exactly the

"We're asking all the parties to use their influence on Hizbullah to get Hizbullah to
stop attacking Israel," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on
Monday. "We're asking people to prevent things, not to supply weapons, not to
allow the supply of weapons, not to encourage and support Hizbullah in carrying
out attacks on Israel."

Officials said tensions still remain high along Israel's border with Lebanon. They
said U.S. diplomats repeated warnings to Lebanon and Syria over the weekend in
wake of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's meeting with President George Bush. The
two men discussed the prospect of outbreak of conflict in Lebanon or Syria.

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