Israel: Whenever, Wherever

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pauses as he delivers his speech during a ceremony commemorating more than 2,600 soldiers that were killed during the 1973 Yom Kippur war, in Jerusalem's Mt. Herzl military cemetery Tuesday Oct. 7, 2003.
AP
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in his first public comments since an Israeli air strike against Syria, said Tuesday that his nation would not hesitate to strike at its enemies wherever they were.

At the same time, Syrian President Bashar Assad accused Israel on Tuesday of trying to drag Syria and the entire region into war, reports CBS News Correspondent Robert Berger.

The statements came two days after Israeli warplanes bombed a suspected Islamic Jihad training base outside the Syrian capital of Damascus in the first major Israeli attack on Syrian soil in three decades. That bombing was in retaliation for an Islamic Jihad suicide bombing Saturday that killed 19 people in a restaurant in Haifa.

"Israel will not be deterred from protecting its citizens and will strike its enemies in every place and in every way," Sharon said at a memorial service for Israeli soldiers killed during the 1973 Middle East war.

"This (Israeli) government is one of war and war is the justification for its existence," Assad told Syria's Al-Hayat newspaper in an interview published on Tuesday.

The attack on the reported militant base — Israel's deepest raid into Syria in 30 years — led to fears that the three-year Palestinian uprising could widen to include other neighboring countries. After the attack, Israel accused Syria of harboring and funding Islamic Jihad and also named Iran as a key backer of the militant group.

However, Sharon also said he was open to peace overtures.

"We will not miss any openings or opportunities to reach an arrangement with our neighbors and comprehensive peace," he said. "Only with this combination can we be sure that this generation will see with its own eyes the end of this war and will reach the gates of peace."

Meanwhile, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat swore in the new Palestinian prime minister and a skeleton emergency Cabinet Tuesday in Ramallah.

Arafat declared a state of emergency in the Palestinian areas and named the new eight-member Cabinet of incoming Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia on Sunday night, a day after a suicide bombing in the Israeli city of Haifa killed 19 people.

The bombing led to new demands for Israel to carry through on its threat to "remove" Arafat.

The emergency government will serve for a limited term of a month, with a possible one-month extension if two-thirds of Palestinian legislators back the idea. Qureia could also present a full-sized Cabinet to parliament within a month.

The attack on Syria led to an escalation of tensions along the border between Israel and Lebanon, where Syria is the main power-broker.

Early Tuesday, a Lebanese boy was killed in an explosion in a village near the border with Israel. Hours earlier, an Israeli soldier was killed in a cross-border shooting.

Israel's Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that the security Cabinet decided at a meeting on Aug. 19 — following a Hamas bus bombing that killed 23 people — to target an Islamic Jihad training camp near Damascus, but postponed the air raid for operational reasons.

After the Haifa suicide bombing Saturday, the army said it was possible to carry out the operation near Damascus, and a group of Cabinet ministers approved the air raid, Olmert said.

Israeli warplanes bombed the training camp — which apparently has been abandoned for some time — early Sunday.

"We have no limitations regarding the targets and the goals so long as they are, in the end, connected to the terrorist acts," Olmert told Israel Radio.

"We hope the Syrians will sober up and realize that what they are doing is endangering them," Raanan Gissin, a Sharon aide, said. "Hopefully, Assad will get the message."