- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 6, 2002

NICOSIA, Cyprus Diplomats from moderate Arab nations fear that recent Syrian newspaper reports and radio broadcasts signal an effort by Damascus to get involved in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis by promoting terrorist attacks on U.S. targets in the region.
Even while it moves its troops in Lebanon away from the Israeli border to avoid being dragged into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syria appears to be instigating Arab neighbors to strike back at Israel and the United States.
As Israel keeps Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat isolated in Ramallah and takes control of most cities in the West Bank in response to a series of suicide bombings, large protests have erupted in nations throughout the Middle East. As a traditional ally of Israel, the United States has also been targeted by the protesters.
U.S. interests in the Middle East "might become a target of the angry Arab masses," an Arab diplomat in the Syrian capital said.
Editorials and radio comment throughout the Middle East are also warning of possible strikes "against U.S. interests" in the area.
The Al-Watan daily in Doha, Qatar, quoting Syrian sources, said, "The growing Israeli aggression against the unarmed Palestinian people is likely to lead the region to a war, which will seriously reflect on world security and peace."
Official Syrian radio, in a warning aired this week, said: "There must be tangible work on the ground and concrete measures to increase Israel's predicament. The Arabs do not need much thinking and contemplation about what needs to be done."
The radio also urged Jordan and Egypt, the only countries with diplomatic relations with Israel, "to sever these ties and close down the enemy's offices and missions so that the criminals of Tel Aviv realize that the Arabs are one nation and that they cannot penetrate Arab territory and dismember it."
Egypt announced this week that it was scaling down its relations with Israel in protest against the incursions.
The Damascus daily Al-Thawrah said the recent statements from Washington are a "justification of [Israels] crime, and racist and ethnic war" against the Palestinians. The United States "has became a real and actual partner in the Israeli war by providing political cover for it," the newspaper said.
It urged Arab nations to "use all economic and diplomatic means," such as recalling their ambassadors to the United States and other Western states. "They must also show a real disposition to threaten Western interests in the region," the newspaper said.
Syria, which the State Department considers a state sponsor of terrorism, began moving its troops in Lebanon away from the Israeli border this week. Islamist Hezbollah guerrillas based in southern Lebanon have been firing rockets into Israel, and Israel has retaliated with missile strikes.
Last year, Israel hit Syrian positions in Lebanon after a similar wave of Hezbollah attacks across the area.
According to Voice of Israel radio in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has met with reserve and regular service commanders in the areas bordering Lebanon and Syria, and "100 percent of reserve troops have been mobilized in that sector."

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