Syria Puts Army On Alert
Against Israeli Attack

By Inal Ersan

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syria's armed forces chief of staff ordered his troops on Thursday to be on high alert against any possible Israeli "aggression" after Israeli warplanes struck a site near Damascus earlier this month.
Lieutenant General Hasan Turkmani urged "fighters to keep working day and night and stay at maximum readiness and be alert to repel any possible aggression of (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon's government," the state news agency reported.
A senior Israeli security source denied the Jewish state sought new hostilities with Syria, with which it is officially at war. "We do not intend to escalate tensions," the source said. "These statements out of Damascus are clearly for internal consumption."
Israel carried out an air strike on October 5 against what it said was a training camp for "terror groups" after a suicide bombing in Haifa in northern Israel that killed 20 people. The Islamic Jihad movement said it was behind the attack.
Israel said it reserved the right to attack "terrorist organizations and their leaders" even on foreign soil.
Turkmani, addressing the armed forces on air defense day, said Israel was trying to export its domestic crises by harassing Syria.
President Bashar al-Assad, quoted by the state news agency, told Israel its military zeal would not intimidate Syrians and accused it of trying to fuel "the war against Islam."
Israel "should know that no matter how big their military might grows they will not succeed in achieving their goals or in planting fears in us," Assad said in a speech at the summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Malaysia.
"As we talk about the war being waged today against Islam we have to keep in mind that there are various powers in this world that have worked systematically on fueling up this war, in the lead of these powers is Israel, the state of terrorism."
Syria, which says the October 5 raid struck a civilian location near the village of Ain Saheb, has demanded the U.N. Security Council condemn Israel for the attack, the deepest air raid into Syria by the Jewish state in 30 years.
But Assad also said that "we call for a just and comprehensive peace in our region and are working to achieve this in line with international resolutions."
Syria denies links to "terrorist groups" and says there is a difference between terrorism and legitimate resistance to Israeli occupation.
"With our constant condemnation of terrorism and rejection of violence we affirm the right of any people whose land is occupied and are under aggression to resist occupation and aggression," the agency quoted Assad as saying.
Washington has said Syria must stop "harboring terrorists," but urged both Israel and Syria to avoid actions that could inflame tension in the region.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to impose sanctions on Syria until the White House says it has stopped sponsoring terrorism and halted programs for weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. Senate will take up the measure.
Copyright © 2003 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.




This Site Served by TheHostPros