Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Push to stop terrorism

Escalation: Middle East conflict

The stakes rose dramatically in the Middle East conflict this weekend, as an Israeli air strike hit a target inside neighboring Syria in apparent retaliation for the latest Palestinian suicide bombing against Israelis. It was an ominous development that could cause the Palestinian-Israeli strife to spill over into the entire region. This underscores the urgency the international community ought to feel about the need to stop terrorism. It also should inspire the United States to revive its flagging peace efforts.

On Saturday, a terrorist blew herself up in a crowded Haifa restaurant, killing herself and 19 others, including four children. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.

Israel retaliated quickly, bombing a suspected Islamic Jihad terrorist training camp near Damascus. It was Israel's deepest strike into Syria since the Yom Kippur War, which began 30 years ago Monday.

Syria, currently a member of the U.N. Security Council, quickly introduced a resolution condemning the Israeli raid, and asked the United States not to veto it. John Negroponte, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., rightly countered that the body ought to be condemning such acts as the Haifa bombing. Even Russia opined that the Syrian resolution lacked "balance."

All involved should try to keep the tension from escalating, but we should be clear about where the blame lies. Israel was exercising its right to defend itself by going after camps that operate freely in Syria, supplying and supporting the terrorists who commit these heinous acts of slaughter against Israelis.

The air strike sent a message that this enabling cannot continue. Negroponte called on the Syrians "to stop harboring and supporting the groups that perpetrate terrorist acts such as the one that occurred in Haifa." Syria's claim that the militant groups merely operate "media offices" inside their nation borders on the comical.

Meanwhile, the new Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, declared Monday that he will not use his security forces to confront the militants. In effect, that gives them a green light to continue their murderous campaign. If the major players don't put some real pressure on the terrorists soon, Israel will devise its own way to deal with them.

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