Israel Warns Syria Not to Fight by Proxy

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel warned Syria on Tuesday that it can't use Hizballah as its proxy in a war against Israel and get away with it.

The warning came one day after a soldier was killed and another seriously injured when Hizballah guerillas fired an anti-tank missile at a military bulldozer clearing bombs along the northern border.

The bombs had been planted by Hizballah weeks ago but could not be cleared sooner due to weather conditions, the army said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom called the Hizballah missile strike on Israel's northern border a "serious" attack.

Shalom warned that if Syrian President Bashar Assad thinks he can use Hizballah in the struggle against Israel, he should know that Israel's response would be "very clear," Israel Radio reported.

Hizballah claimed the military bulldozer had crossed into Lebanese territory.

But Maj.-Gen. Benny Ganz, head of the Israeli army's Northern Command, said the bulldozer was operating on Israel's side of the international border.

Ganz laid the blame for Hizballah's activities on Syria and Lebanon and said that those on the other side of the border "should be worried."

Israel filed a complaint about the violation with the United Nations. It is the fifth time in recent months that explosives were discovered along the Israeli-Lebanese border, the army said.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz planned to meet with senior security officials on Tuesday to consider Israel's response, radio reports said.

The attack did not bode well for the possible resumption of Israeli-Syrian talks.

Syrian President Assad said last month in an interview that he was willing to resume negotiations with Israel, without preconditions, but then he said he wanted the talks to resume at the point where they broke off four years ago.

Since then a number of Israeli officials have welcomed the idea of talks with Assad, including Israeli President Moshe Katsav, who invited the Syrian president to come to Jerusalem for negotiations.

But Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said on Monday that the price of entering into talks with Syria would be Israel giving up the strategic Golan Heights overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

Sharon said last week that Israel is ready and willing to negotiate, but only if Syria will stop supporting terrorists.

The Hizballah waged an active guerrilla and terrorist war against Israeli troops in southern Lebanon and northern Israeli communities for 18 years. It still controls the southern Lebanese border area. Lebanon is under de facto Syrian control.

In the past, Israel has said that it holds Syria responsible for the actions of Hizballah.

Syria has been under increasing pressure to show that it is in step with Washington since the capture of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein last month and passage of the Syrian Accountability Act in Congress, which calls for sanctions against Syria if it does not end its support for terrorism and quit its occupation of Lebanon.

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