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September 27, 2004
Israel Points The Finger

Israel has apparently decided that a forward strategy against terrorism has to include not only the West Bank and Gaza Strip but those nations who harbor and shelter them. Sound familiar? Israel gave notice to the closest such nation this morning, warning Syria that its friends will get them more trouble in the future:

Israel accused Syria on Monday of "directing terrorism" and warned it could face pre-emptive strikes against militants on its territory, but stopped short of saying it killed a Hamas leader in Damascus.

Syria had accused Israel of terrorism following the Palestinian militant's death in a car bombing on Sunday, three weeks after Hamas killed 16 Israelis in bombings Israel blamed on Hamas exiles in Damascus.

Targeting and killing the individual leaders of organizations that have sworn to destroy Israel and that set off bombs in pizzerias is not terrorism -- it's war, and Syria may need to learn the difference the hard way. Hamas, which Syria shelters and supports, has a long track record of violence targeting civilians including a long list of women and children left dead in their wake. To equate the killing of the people who order the murders to the deaths of the civilians they caused is little less than obscene.

Israel does not have the resources at the moment to wage traditional war against Syria while securing itself against the Palestinians in the territories. But the targeted assassination of the Hamas leader Izz Khalil shows that Israel has decided to take a page out of Hamas' strategy playbook and wage asymmetrical war against terrorists regardless of where they appear. It also serves to destabilize the Assad regime in Damascus if they appear unable to stop Israeli incursions even in their own capitol. In fact, in a ludicrous statement, Assad's state news agency decried the damage done to regional stability by Israel's action:

Syria's state news agency quoted an official source on Sunday as saying: "This terrorist act represents a grave development for which Israel shoulders responsibility as it stresses its intent to shake (regional) security and stability."

Israel intends to shake regional security, all right, as the region has continually demonstrated that it will not allow Israel any security of its own. Syria's statement equates to street gangs complaining about the destabilizing nature of Neighborhood Watch programs. If Assad wants to keep funding Hamas and Islamic Jihad and other bombthrowers, then Assad has committed an act of war by proxy -- and he shouldn't weep to the world media when Israel answers not in kind but in a legitimate act of response.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 27, 2004 10:42 AM

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