DAMASCUS - Syrians are outraged over Israeli air strikes in Lebanon that have
killed scores of civilians and closed down Beirut's international airport.
Early Thursday morning, Israeli air strikes targeted the new Rafiq al-Hariri
international airport. Israeli naval vessels entered Lebanon's territorial waters
and blocked access to ports while its forces launched an offensive in southern
Lebanon against Hezbollah fighters.
Hezbollah is a militant group that has long engaged in armed conflict with
Israel. It is believed to be strongest in the south of Lebanon, in the areas
The Israeli offensive was launched in response to the killing of eight Israeli
soldiers in clashes with Hezbollah fighters Wednesday near the border 15 km
from the Mediterranean. Two Israeli soldiers were taken hostage. An Israeli
soldier had earlier been captured in Gaza.
In an escalation of the conflict, an Israeli woman was killed after Hezbollah
fighters fired rockets across the border into the Israeli town Nahariya. An
Israeli air base was hit by rockets, along with other towns in the area. Several
Israeli civilians have been wounded.
The Israeli military entered Lebanon for the first time since withdrawing six
"I doubt you will find one Syrian who will not denounce what Israel is
doing in Gaza, the West Bank, and now in Lebanon," independent publicity
consultant Ibrahim Yakhour told IPS. "Syrians believe that what the Palestinians
suffer is what the Syrians suffer."
Yakhour, a 60-year-old retired journalist, said political parties in Syria
have been calling for a peaceful political process in the Middle East for the
past 30 years. "But when people are humiliated, attacked, and killed, radical
reactions commence which are deleterious to the political process."
People in Damascus also fear that a regional war may spread to Syria. "The
entire region is now involved," said Emad Huria, a 45-year-old literary
critic. "All Arabs should raise their voices against the Israeli invasion
Maher Skandyran, a 37-year-old worker at a watch store in downtown Damascus,
said Israeli double standards are making people furious.
"I feel angry. Ninety-five percent of the Palestinian prisoners held by
Israel are innocent civilians, including women and children. Nobody says a word
about this. But when three Israeli armed soldiers are detained, this is such
a big crime, and everyone is outraged. Is this justice?"
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the Israeli soldiers had been
seized to push Israel to release prisoners.
Israel reacted with unexpected aggression. An Israeli military spokesman told
reporters, "Since this morning Israeli naval vessels have enforced a full
naval closure on Lebanon, because Lebanon's ports are used to transfer both
terrorists and weapons to the terror organizations operating in Lebanon."
Another official said that the attacks had been launched to pressure the Lebanese
government to deal with Hezbollah.
Hezbollah's al-Manar television station in Beirut was bombed. Israel also bombed
several bridges that link southern Lebanon with the rest of the country.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the action was in response to "an
act of war by the state of Lebanon." His cabinet promised a response with
But the root of the Lebanese problem could lie in the occupation of Palestinian
"Everything which is happening illustrates the main problem, which is
the Israelis invading and occupying Palestine and taking the land," 55-year-old
local merchant Faez Ashoor told IPS. "When that situation ends, we will
Some of the Syrian anger is directed, inevitably, at the United States.
"I feel upset because our neighbors like Lebanon, Iraq, and Palestine
are being attacked," said Hamad al-Khatib, 26-year-old owner of a mobile
phone store in central Damascus. "Israel doesn't care about international
law. We thought America was peaceful, but we see them support Israel, which
is killing women and children. What are we to think of America now?"
Syrians are also now worried about themselves, he said. "This Israeli
attack makes all of us feel insecure now. We are all very anxious."
(Inter Press Service)