Israel Bombs Syria

by Kieran Healy on October 6, 2003

For the first time since 1973, Israel has attacked targets in Syria. The attacks were in response to the most recent suicide bomb attack in Haifa. According to CNN, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. described the attack as a “measured defensive operation” aimed at destroying a training camp run by Islamic Jihad. Syria denies the camp was a terrorist base. It was certainly inside Syria, though — about 14 miles from Damascus. I don’t have much to say about this, other than to ask whether better-informed people than me think this is going to escalate Israeli-Palestinian conflict outside of Israel and the Occupied Territories.



James Russell 10.06.03 at 8:18 am

I’m not informed on the Middle East at all. My gut instinct tells me, however, that this cannot possibly be good by any means.


Barry 10.06.03 at 12:29 pm

Thank God that Our Dear Leader Dubya had the God-sent courage and wisdom to invade Iraq! If it wasn’t for the wave of democracy and peace rolling through the Middle East started by Saddam’s removal, we might have a bad situation there.


Jack 10.06.03 at 3:43 pm

Why does this automatically get reported as “This was in response to the most recent suicide bombing”? Surely it should be “The Israeli ambassador said…”. Nothing personal, I just note that this formula is more or less universal and seems somewhat presumptuous.


Elayne Riggs 10.06.03 at 3:53 pm

Way to commemorate Yom Kippur. I hope God inscribes all these idiotic Israelis in the Book of Death for profaning the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar in this manner.


Danny 10.06.03 at 4:25 pm

I’m inclined to agree with you, Elayne, but it’s certainly not the first time Yom Kippur has been profaned with military aggression.

October 6th, 1973.


davebanjo 10.06.03 at 6:08 pm

on the one hand, nobody was killed in the israeli raid, so that’s good (19 less deaths than the Haifa bombing). OTOH, the camp was reported to belong to the PFLP, not Islamic Jihad, so maybe it’s just a way to strike out at someone, even if they weren’t involved in the act this was supposed to answer (sound familiar?)


John 10.06.03 at 7:35 pm

It all depends on what the international reaction to the raid will be. If the Security Council passes a resolution condemning the Israeli attack, then we won’t see an escalation.

On the other hand, if the raid is allowed to pass uncondemned, Israeli raids on Syria will become more routine, following the same pattern of escalation that occurred in the West Bank.


mitch 10.06.03 at 11:42 pm

So, Israel is about to go on holiday. Then, for the nth time since the start of the intifada, a Syrian-sponsored terrorist group kills a dozen people (Jews *and* Arabs this time). The IDF carries out the usual closures and house demolitions in the West Bank. For the first time, they also make a raid into Syria itself, although it’s only symbolic (being an “attack” on a disused camp run by a different Syrian-sponsored group).

Yes, it’s an escalation on the Israeli side. But I’d like to see a little more sympathy please. What are they supposed to do, just ignore the Syrian role? If Syria is dissuaded from supporting these groups, that will be a step towards peace. But that will not happen if the world just stomps their feet and says “Bad Israelis”.

From the start of the second intifada three years ago, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia all competed to sponsor the Palestinian terror groups. Up until 9/11, Israel was pretty much alone against this. After that they had rhetorical, diplomatic and covert support from the USA, I guess. For Israel, the tide has surely turned since the war in Iraq, but the Syrian/Iranian axis has remained essentially unmolested. (I’m not sure of the current Saudi stance.) I don’t recall any move to condemn Syria and Iran in the Security Council, in the wake of the recent suicide bombing. If you’re not going to do that, but you *are* going to condemn this (symbolic, not *actually* murderous!) Israeli escalation, then you destroy its potential deterrent effect, and actually drag things out.


Diana 10.07.03 at 12:50 am

What Syrian role?

According to all the news stories, the bomber was a woman from Jenin whose two brothers had been killed by the Israelis. I’ve yet to see anything to tie her to anything in Syria.

As for deterrent effect, the shooting at Lebanon caused Lebanese soldiers to shoot back, and now an Israeli soldier is dead who didn’t need to die and would not have died if the Isreali establishment had not decided to “deter” suicide bombers by shooting at people who had no connection to them.

Then again, if we can invade Iraq because Osama bin Laden came from Yemen via Saudi Arabia and now lives in Pakistan, I suppose Israel can bomb Syria.

I just have this sneaking suspicion that it’s going to have about as much of a deterrent effect — ie, zero.


Barry 10.07.03 at 1:13 am

One hopes, Diana. The deterrent effect could be much less than zero, as in the West Bank/Gaza Strip.


mitch 10.07.03 at 1:37 am

Syria and Islamic Jihad. The leadership lives in Damascus, and they send money and instructions to Jenin.


mitch 10.07.03 at 1:55 am

‘As for deterrent effect, the shooting at Lebanon caused Lebanese soldiers to shoot back, and now an Israeli soldier is dead who didn’t need to die and would not have died if the Isreali establishment had not decided to “deter” suicide bombers by shooting at people who had no connection to them.’

*Lebanon* was shot at? Causing Lebanese soldiers to shoot back? How about: *Syria* was shot at, so they rang up Lebanese Hezbollah – another one of their sponsored groups – and said, do something. Which took the form of a hit-and-run attack on an Israeli patrol, followed by firing a few bullets at UNIFIL trucks so they could say the Israelis provoked it.

Do you see the disconnect in what you said? No-one has said that Israel fired at Lebanon in order to deter anything. Israel openly bombed an empty camp in Syria. Then suddenly retaliation comes from *Lebanon*, from another group under Syrian patronage, under the pretext that Israel attacked Lebanese targets, something Israel denies. This is how state sponsorship of terrorism works! You act through deniable proxies, and then float a story explaining their actions.


mitch 10.07.03 at 1:56 am

I will have to give up using asterisks.


Diana 10.07.03 at 3:34 am

Israel fired shots across the border at Lebanon first. Go read the news at

First the Israelis bombed the “training ground” (how much training do you need to be suicide bomber, inquiring minds want to know — and I notice you don’t explain how our Jenin woman got there and back) and then that afternoon an israeli border guard fired shots across the Lebanese border. They hit a house, and they hit two vehicles, and they traded insults in Arabic (according to Haaretz). The Haaretz story did not report anyone hurt at that time.

Then the Lebanese called for soldiers to come to the border, and there were more shots fired. It sounds from the AP report like there were shattered shots on both sides — it didn’t sound serious.

Then there was the news story that an Israeli soldier had been hit.

I only know what’s reported on the wires, but that’s the order in which the information came across the net.

So it sounds to me like Israel shot first, but that neither side really intended it to be lethal. Except that when you use live ammo, lethal is the risk you run.


frank 10.07.03 at 5:09 am

Diana – I think you trivialize Israel’s position if you compare their attack on a hostile neighbor to the US’s attack on Iraq, etc. Israel is in a “bit” more vulnerable position given that it is surrounded by neighbors most of whom have no intention of accepting its existence (I am not talking about the “occupied territories”, I’m talking about the entire state of Israel).

As for Yom Kippur, Elayne, don’t you think the world would be completely up in arms if a Muslim country was attacked just before a Muslim holiday? But there seems to be little said about the timing of this homicide bombing.

I also find it interesting that few comment on the fact that many of the people who were killed this time were Israeli Arabs. Who exactly is the enemy for these people?

Israel is in a catch-22 position. How do you get into diplomatic negotiations with people, groups, and countries that do not accept your existence at all and their ultimate goal is to drive you into the sea?


mitch 10.07.03 at 5:18 am

Okay, here’s Haaretz. Israel Radio says the IDF was shot at first, Lebanese security forces say the IDF shot without provocation. There’s mortar fire from Lebanon for the first time in more than a year, which apparently killed a boy on the Lebanese side of the border. There’s no attempt to blame the boy’s death on a direct IDF attack, but the Lebanese security forces (I wish they’d give them a name) say that the IDF shelled southern Lebanon, which the IDF denies.

And no-one – not me, not Israel – said Hanadi Jaradat was ever at that camp, or even that it was run by Islamic Jihad. Haaretz says it was PFLP-GC. I take the bombing to be a message to the Syrian government, saying, shut off your support for all these groups, or we will come after them inside Syria.

In the big picture, I see five protagonists, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Iran, and the USA, with Lebanon caught in the middle. Israel hopes to remove Arafat and end the intifada, but the USA is not ready for that. Iran wants an Islamic Palestine. Syria wants the Golan back, and uses its control over the Palestinian groups as a bargaining chip. The USA wants an end to Iranian sponsorship of terrorism and to their nuclear program. I don’t know if Arafat is doing any more than trying to stay on top at this point. So, that’s my sketch of the strategic judo-tangle within which the cycle of violence is occurring, and whenever a suicide bombing occurs, one has to ask who was involved: the PA, Syria, Iran, some combination of these, or none of the above. This analysis suggests that it was one of the more sophisticated attacks, which in turn suggests assistance. Whether or not Israel’s response was tactically appropriate, if it was indeed an empty camp that they bombed, it was a benign action compared to the act which set it off.


jack 10.08.03 at 6:07 am

Tough situation. All complicated by the personalities of the region. History is in order.

We find an area fundamentally inhabited by “Arabs”. Mostly Islamic, but with some Christian presence (probably forced conversions dating back to the crusades). Overall, not very nice people. Most kingdoms and nations were formed through bloodshed, including, the most favored, assassination in one’s own household or at least in one’s immediate family.

Nestled in a little crook of a seaside resort are peoples of varying regional origin, but generally referred to as “Israelis”. Very few of these folks are indigenous to the region, unless you go back around a thousand years or so. That’s when the Romans, and later the Turks killed most Jews and for that matter an awful lot of Islamics. A large portion of the Israeli population came from the Jewish population in Europe after WWII.

NOTE: Creationism fanatics please skip to the next paragraph. This is where Darwin took over. Many if not most of the survivors of the Nazi’s “final solution” were the toughest, meanest, hardest and roughest of all the Jews in Europe. Not exactly what the Nazi’s had envisioned, but they, in effect, created a survivor race of Jews who could – today – probably whip their collective butts. Sharon, as tank commander, was often compared to Rommel or Patton. Not exactly the kind of folks you want to kill, unless you can kill all of them. Bad move on the Arab’s part.

On to the Palestinians. Not nice people among a region of not nice people. No one wants them. Their “Arab brothers” gag at the thought of absorbing this relatively miniscule population. Think of the theoretical instant peace that would descend upon the world if the Palestinian people were to be accepted and embraced by any one of their fellow Islamic neighbors. Even their closest cousins – the Jordanians – don’t want them. This gets very ugly.

So now everyone’s bickering. And we seem to be whining. Let’s see. Sharon walks onto a holy Islamic shrine. In retaliation, Palestinians kill Israelis. Hmmmm. So far, sounds fair. Eventually, Israelis get ticked off. Kill some Palestinians. Bad. Very Bad. After all, Israel is a civilized country. No one does that. (Except, the US, UK, CCCP, France (OK France is not civilized, but they still count), Italy, Germany, Turkey, Greece, China, Korea (OK, Korea is like France, big deal), well, y’all get the idea).

So. Britain gets to whack some IRA people and anyone around them because of a few bombs in London. The US gets to whack Panama, Granada, Iraq (twice). The CCCP gets to shoot down Korean airliners and fuel takeovers of little insignificant countries. The UK gets to whack Argentina over a bunch of sheep. Iraq actually gets to whack Kuwait and just get their butts kicked, but no real punishment. The Saudis get to fund terrorism against the US and be blessed and funded by the US. Pakistan and India get to test some nukes. But the lousy Jews have no rights, except to die. So far, still fair.

Let’s make it more fair. As the rest of the world goes, Israel should do some whacking. That will probably solve the issue. Once, and for all. No escalation. No warfare. No conflict. Just an end to the fighting. That, sadly, is called peace everywhere else in the world. It’s time for peace in the Middle East.

Unless you’re really into war and bloodshed.

Let me paraphrase columnist Charles Krauthammer on his vision of Armageddon in the Middle East. The situation is allowed to deteriorate. Hammas continues to attack Israel from Syria. Eventually, Israel attacks terrorist positions in Syria. (Sound familiar people?) Syria is faced with a dilemma. Loose face with unanswered Israeli attacks, or take action. (Didn’t they just say that last week?) The problem is the Syrian military is no match for the Israelis. So instead Damascus launches a chemical or biological missile attack against Israel (discussed in the WSJ two days ago). The Israelis, having vowed never to permit Jews to be gassed use nuclear missiles against Syrian cities and military targets. The beginning of the end, and time is running out.

I still vote for peace.


Antoni Jaume 10.08.03 at 6:43 pm

Christians in Palestine predate the Crusades, in the past they were about a 10% of the population. The rising of islamic fundamentalists have motivated a continuous emigration to other parts of the world, mostly the Americas, but too in Europe.



UZOAGBA UZOAGBA 02.20.04 at 5:11 pm

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