Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Cheshvan 5764 - October 29, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Tensions Rise on Northern Border
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Hizbullah shelled Israeli positions on Monday and Israel responded with air and artillery, as the tone of the rhetoric also rose among Israel, Syria and Lebanon. US Secretary of State Colin Powell called on Syria and Israel to ease tensions and tone down their rhetoric after a Syrian official threatened to retaliate against further Israeli attacks.

On Tuesday Israel Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that Israel has intelligence that the militant Lebanese-based Hizbullah organization is planning a large-scale attack in northern Israel. Mofaz said that the attack would be "more significant" than the shelling that the group has carried out on the Israel-Lebanon border in the past two days.

Major General Benny Ganz, commander of the northern front, said on Tuesday that continuing cross-border escalation spurred by Hizbullah in south Lebanon is a "dangerous factor, which may make the situation such that we may have to act with very, very strong force."

Syrian and Iranian-backed Hizbullah fired rockets and artillery rounds at the two IDF positions in the Har Dov area named "Gladiola" and "Hadas," near the border between Lebanon and Israel on Monday. Hizbullah also fired an antitank missile at an IDF base outside of the Har Dov region for the first time since April 2002.

Security sources in Jerusalem said the rocket fire hit at least one outpost and struck the outskirts of several others in the border area that Israel calls Har Dov and Lebanon calls the Shebaa Farms region. The UN told Lebanon that the area is not part of Lebanon but the Hizbullah refused to accept that determination. Israel maintains that Lebanon has no claim to the area, but concedes that Syria might.

Israel responded to the rocket fire with two air strikes on the edges of the Lebanese border village of Kfar Shouba and shelled the outskirts of several other villages. Israeli helicopters were deployed and artillery batteries fired at Hizbullah positions.

Powell said the threat heightened tensions strained by Israel's Oct. 5 air strike on what it called a "terrorist camp" near Damascus -- its deepest raid into Syria since the 1973 Middle East war. Pilots returning from the strike reported big secondary explosions, confirming that the area was not abandoned as the Syrians claimed in their statements in response to the Israeli strike. The Israeli raid on the Syrian target followed a suicide bombing that killed 22 people in an Israeli restaurant in Haifa.

In a statement issued in New York, Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said he "strongly deplores" the attacks on both sides.

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara told Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper that Syria would strike back and could hit Israel settlements in the Golan Heights if Israel launched another such strike.

Israeli officials said the remarks reflected Syrian "embarrassment" at what strategic experts see as Syria's relative military weakness. Syria did not react militarily to the recent Israeli strike in any way while it was taking place.

Powell's statement followed an announcement by the Lebanese army that said Beirut had agreed with Damascus on ways to confront "enemy" threats. The Lebanese army said that it and Syria's armed forces had looked into ways to "confront challenges and enemy threats to which both Syria and Lebanon are exposed."

"A unified formula was reached on this issue," it said, giving no details.

Syrian Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Hasan Turkmani, who earlier this month put the Syrian armed forces on alert against any new Israeli attack, held meetings on Monday with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and top military officials.


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