Syria Bombing Ratchets Up Middle East Tensions

ISRAELI AIRCRAFT bombed an abandoned Palestinian militia camp deep inside Syrian territory last weekend.

This was in retaliation for the bombing by Islamic Jihad of an Israeli-Arab owned restaurant in Haifa, which killed 19 people.

The Israeli cabinet, in a move which escalates tensions with neighbouring Syria, accuses president Bashar al-Assad’s government of aiding and abetting “international terrorism”.

It’s an accusation which George Bush’s administration has consistently promoted. Some officials have unconvincingly argued that Saddam Hussein’s missing Weapons of Mass Destruction were moved to Syria prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq.

After the Israeli strike the US state department said Syria was on “on the wrong side” in its ‘war on terror’.

Under pressure from a belligerent White House, Syria earlier this year temporarily closed the political offices of Islamic Jihad and Hamas in Damascus.

It appears that the ‘training camp’ targeted by Israeli jets was in fact an abandoned camp of the Syrian-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.

At the United Nations security council meeting following the attack the US kicked into touch a resolution critical of Israel.

The US remains Israel’s principal backer giving billions of dollars each year in economic and military aid.

George Bush’s concern is that Ariel Sharon’s government might risk a escalation of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict by exiling Palestinian president Yasser Arafat (or even assassinating him as some Israeli hardliners want).

The beleaguered president Arafat is now surrounded at his battered Ramallah HQ by international supporters acting as ‘human shields’.

Meanwhile, the repression of the Palestinian areas by the Israeli Defence Forces continues – as does the building of Israel’s ‘security fence’ which is confiscating more Palestinian territory into a ‘greater Israel’.

In fact one of the ironies of Ariel Sharon’s constant refrain that Arafat’s Palestinian Authority won’t take punitive action against the Palestinian militias is that the IDF actually controls most of the Palestinian towns and cities.

This includes Jenin where the latest suicide bomber came from.

Despite overwhelming firepower and heightened security measures, the Haifa bombing shows that Israeli government repression far from stopping Palestinian attacks actually provides the social conditions for such bombings to continue.

This fact won’t be lost on Israelis who are now also paying a high economic price for this war. Indeed, some Israelis serving in the IDF are refusing to serve in the occupying territories.

What is absent is a sizeable socialist movement to challenge the right-wing governing coalition and the capitalist system it represents.