Assad says Syria won't ignore Israeli attack

Assad says Syria won't ignore Israeli attack

President Bashar al-Assad, in his strongest reaction so far to the Israeli strike against a Syrian radar base in Lebanon, said on Wednesday the country would not stand idly by as Israel mounted attacks, his spokesman said.

"President Bashar declared that the Syrian leadership and people would not stand with arms folded against the continuing Israeli aggressions against the Arab nation," the spokesman said.

He said the president's remarks were made during a meeting of the ruling Baath Party's Regional Command, the party's highest policy making body, held on Tuesday under Assad's chairmanship.

The meeting was the first since an Israeli air raid early on Monday which killed three Syrian soldiers and wounded six others in eastern Lebanon. Israel said it launched the raid in retaliation for the killing of one of its soldiers by the Hizbollah guerrilla group on Saturday.

Syria has not responded militarily to the Israeli attack and U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Wednesday: "We would urge them (the Syrians) to continue to be restrained."

Syria, the dominant power in Lebanon where it has some 35,000 troops, supports the Shi'ite Hizbollah militia which led resistance against Israeli troops who withdrew from south Lebanon in May after 22 years of occupation.

The spokesman quoted Assad as expressing an interest in meeting the demands of the Syrian people, who wanted to extend support and backing to the Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"The president expressed his keen interest to meet the demands of the Syrian citizens who wish to supply the Palestinian uprising with all support and backing, especially the opening of donation centers in various Syrian cities, to enable the uprising to confront the Israeli war machine," the spokesman said.

The demands were made during demonstrations which were staged in various Syrian cities to protest Israel's attack, which has been roundly condemned by the United States and European Union as "excessive."

The spokesman said Assad also ridiculed Israel's claims that Arabs were responsible for the violence in the region and that Israel was only defending itself.

"Israel's disregard of Arab sentiments and its provocation of the Arab citizen everywhere is causing a state of great anger among the Arab masses," Assad said.

At least 381 Palestinians, 13 Israeli Arabs and 71 other Israelis have died since the start of a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation in September.

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