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What's behind the Israeli air attacks?

By Hans Lebrecht, People's Weekly World,
April 2001

TEL-AVIV - During the evening of April 15, U.S.-made Israeli fighter planes destroyed a major radar station in Lebanon, manned by Syrian troops north of the Beirut-Damascus highway, some 45 miles north of the Israeli border.

According to early reports, one Syrian officer and two soldiers were killed and five others wounded. It was the first such attack upon a Syrian army installation in Lebanon since 1996 and the first act of air piracy in the Lebanese air space since the May 2000 withdrawal of Israel from its 18-year Insecurity Zone in southern Lebanon.

The Israeli rulers have always maintained their self-assumed right to have free access to the air space of its northern neighbor, Lebanon, a sovereign member state of the United Nations. They have always felt free to attack targets in Lebanon from the air, from the sea and by land forces.

With this week's air piracy destroying Syrian radar installations deep inside Lebanon, Israel has purposely entered a new phase of aggression. The attack was not an act decided by some army chief. It was perpetrated after a one-and-a half hour urgent special meeting of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's war cabinet, held Sunday evening in Tel-Aviv.

On the agenda were reprisals for a Hisbullah attack upon an Israeli tank, moving at a still disputed strip of soil at the Israeli-Lebanese border not far from Mt. Hermon. In that attack on Friday, an Israeli sergeant-major commanding the tank was killed and a soldier wounded.

The attack on the Syrian radar installation was, in fact, the first Israeli attack upon any Syrian target in Lebanon since 1996. Before, attacks by the Israeli army against Syrian targets had never been perpetrated deep within the Lebanese territory but always at the Beqa'a valley, bordering Israel proper.

Syrian army troops have been stationed in Lebanon with the consent of the Lebanese government since the end of the fraternal strife of the 1970s.

Why did the Sharon cabinet decide to attack a Syrian military target, and why this particular radar installation? Why not any other Syrian target in Lebanon, or a Lebanese one, like so often in the past? The official Israeli position is that Syria should be punished for the Hisbollah attack upon that tank at the northern border. But was this alone the reason?

Or was the destruction of that radar installation rather a preventive act to safeguard Israeli fighter plane pilots, possibly foretelling that Sharon plans to repeat the air piracy or other acts of aggression against Lebanon?

In the Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv government centers, any aggressive act against Lebanon or the brutal oppression of the Palestinians under Israel's occupation regime is perpetrated under the pretext of defending the security of the state of Israel and its people.

To the latest missile air attacks upon Gaza, Ramallah and other Palestinian cities, the latest destruction of whole neighborhoods and streets in the Palestinian town Rafiah near the Egyptian border, which borders some provocative Jewish colonial settlements in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, has been added now the renewed air piracy in Lebanon's air space.

It should not be forgotten that Israel is able to carry out its arrogant chauvinistic policy of aggression, of spitting into the face of international law and the U.N. Security Council, of grossly violating the Human Rights Charter, thanks to its military superiority, supported and guaranteed again and again by the United States.

There is a way out. A future in peace and security for Israel and its people can certainly not be achieved by the war mongering of Sharon and his team, but only by a radical change of policy in the direction of acting for a just and lasting peace with the Palestinians, with Syria and the other Arab neighbor countries, of mutually respecting the national rights and aspirations of all peoples and nations concerned, as well as international law.

Such a policy would serve, first of all, the very interests and the security of the Israeli people themselves, but also the interests of all peoples in the region.