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Israeli airstrikes in Syria kill one and injure seven

By Agencies in Jerusalem and Damascus | China Daily | Updated: 2014-03-20 07:43

Bombing of military sites threatens stability in the region, army command says

Israeli air raids on Syria on Wednesday killed one soldier and injured seven, Syria's army said, warning that the strikes endangered regional security and stability.

In a statement, the army command said the strikes targeted military bases in the Quneitra region, "leading to the martyrdom of one soldier and the wounding of seven others".

"We warn that these desperate attempts to escalate and exacerbate the situation in these circumstances by repeating these acts of aggression would endanger the security and stability of the region," the statement added.

The statement came after Israel announced it had carried out air raids overnight against several Syrian army positions that "aided and abetted" an attack against Israeli troops on Tuesday.

The strikes came 12 hours after four soldiers who were patrolling the Israeli side of the cease-fire line with Syria were wounded by a roadside bomb, one of them severely.

Syria, which has long accused the rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad of ties to Israel, said the Jewish state's strikes were intended to bolster the opposition.

"This new aggression is an attempt to divert attention from the successive victories achieved by the Syrian Arab Army, particularly in Yabroud," the statement said, referring to the army's capture of the former rebel bastion on Sunday.

It said the strikes were intended to "boost the morale of the terrorist gangs that are falling apart under the blows of the army."

The Syrian government refers to all those seeking Assad's ouster as "terrorists" and frequently accuses them of cooperating with an array of the country's enemies, including Israel, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The Syrian army statement made no mention of Tuesday's attack that targeted the Israeli soldiers.

It was unclear who was behind that attack, though Israel has said it faces a growing threat from both jihadists fighting with the Syrian opposition and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement, whose fighters are battling alongside the regime.

Although suspicion in Israel fell mainly on Hezbollah, Israeli leaders did not point a finger directly at the Shi'ite Muslim group, which is allied with Assad in battling a three-year rebellion against his rule led by Sunni Islamist insurgents.

In public comments on the airstrikes, Israel appeared intent on delivering a message of deterrence to Assad.

"Our policy is clear. We hurt those who hurt us," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet. "Syrian elements not only allowed but also cooperated in the attacks on our forces," he said, adding that by taking military action now Israel wanted to ensure calm was restored along its northern frontier.

Reuters -AFP

Jerusalem oks 184 new settlement homes

Israel's city of Jerusalem approved building plans on Wednesday for 184 new homes in two Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, land that the Palestinians want for a future state.

A Jerusalem spokeswoman said the local planning committee had approved requests by private contractors who purchased the land years ago for the construction of 144 homes in Har Homa and 40 dwellings in Pisgat Zeev.

Har Homa and Pisgat Zeev settlements are in a part of the West Bank that Israel annexed to Jerusalem after capturing the territory in the 1967 Middle East war. The annexation was not recognized internationally.

Palestinians are seeking a state in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They say Israeli settlements, regarded as illegal by most countries, could deny them a viable, contiguous state.

Israel regards Pisgat Zeev and Har Homa as neighborhoods of Jerusalem that it would keep under any future peace deal with the Palestinians.


(China Daily 03/20/2014 page12)

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