Syria asks U.N. to condemn Israel
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Syria has called for the U.N. Security Council to condemn Sunday's Israeli airstrike against what Israel called a terrorist training camp inside Syrian territory, but Israel says it acted in self-defense after a suicide bombing that killed 19 people.
Syria, an elected member of the Security Council, requested a special meeting and asked the council to strongly condemn the attack.
Syrian U.N. Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad called the raid an act of "unwarranted aggression" that violated the U.N. charter and the 1974 disengagement agreement that followed the 1973 Mideast war.
He said Syria has exercised "maximum self-restraint," but he accused Israel of trying "to export its current domestic crisis to the entire region."
"Syria is not incapable of establishing a resistance and deterrent balance that would force Israel to reconsider its calculations," Mekdad added.
Syria is tabling a draft resolution, backed by other Arab countries, that asks Israel not to make any further attacks.
Sunday's session initially was to be a closed-door meeting, but was later opened.
But Israeli U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman called the airstrike a "measured defensive operation" aimed at a training camp used by Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant group the U.S. State Department has designated a terrorist organization.
Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for Saturday's suicide bombing in Haifa, which killed 19 people.
Gillerman said Israel acted in accordance with Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, which allows nations a right of self-defense. And Syria has "put itself in the dock" by calling for Sunday's meeting, he said.
"There are few better exhibits of state sponsorship for terrorism than the one provided by the Syrian regime," he said.
The United States "believes Syria is on the wrong side of the war on terrorism," the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said.
Ambassador John Negroponte said Washington has clearly urged Damascus to end its support for Palestinian militant groups, but "specific directions for terrorist attacks continue to be issued from terrorist groups based in Syria."
The strike on Syria is the first Israeli attack there since the Yom Kippur war in 1973. Monday is the 30-year anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, when Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.
Imad Moustapha, Syrian charge d'affaires in Washington, accused Israel of "becoming more and more militaristic in its tendencies."
Arab League spokesman Hisham Yousof said Syria had asked the Arab League to meet Sunday night to discuss the situation.
The Ein Saheb camp, deep inside Syria, had been used by "many terror organizations," including Islamic Jihad, for training, the Israel Defense Forces said. But a spokesman from Islamic Jihad in Beirut said the group carried out no military activities in Syria.
Israeli government spokesman Ra'anan Gissin told CNN the camp was 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the Syrian capital Damascus.
"We will take whatever measure is necessary to defend our citizens, regardless of geographical location of these training camps," Gissin said.
Israel, he said, had decided "to enlarge the scope of our operation against the Islamic Jihad and Hamas."
The attack, Gissin said, sent a message to Syria and Iran to end their support for terrorism against Israel.
"We will not tolerate the continuation of this axis of terror between Tehran, Damascus and Gaza to continue to operate and kill innocent men, women and children," he said.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told CNN he had called the White House to ask the Bush administration to help de-escalate the latest violence.
The Palestinian Authority has said it does not have the security resources to restrain militant groups such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad. And, even if it did, doing so would cause civil war among Palestinians.
U.S. President George W. Bush telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Sunday to offer U.S. condolences on the Haifa suicide bombing and to discuss Israel's retaliatory strike on Syria, a Bush administration official said.
The official said the two men "agreed on the need to avoid heightening tensions in the region at this time."
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak earlier called on the U.S. to restrain Israel and expressed concern the attack could presage a new cycle of violence.
"We condemn what happened today concerning the aggression against a brotherly state under the pretext that some organizations exist there," Reuters quoted Mubarak as saying in a joint news conference with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Schroeder said regional peace efforts "become more complicated when ... the sovereignty of a country is violated. This is why the action in Syria is not acceptable."
And in Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the terrorist attack on a Haifa restaurant and Israel's retaliatory strike on Syria have created "growing concern and worry."
On its Web site, the ministry said: "It is obvious that such actions will lead to widening of the geographic boundaries of the confrontation."
The United Kingdom said it had urged all sides to exercise restraint. A Foreign Office statement said: "Israel is of course entitled to take steps to protect itself from terrorist attack, but these steps should be within international law.
"Every act makes it more difficult to get back to the peace process."
Mamoun Fandy, an expert on the region at the U.S. Institute for Peace, in Washington, said the situation has left leaders in a tough spot.
"What the Israelis did today is a major move on the strategic chessboard throughout the Middle East, as well as globally," he told CNN. "This move requires a very deliberate reaction, given the high stakes involved."
Fandy said Syrian President Bashar Assad was faced with a particularly tough choice. He "has to respond and put the Middle East on a countdown to hell, or he does not respond, and undermines his own legitimacy internally."
He added: "Everybody's shaking in their boots now. They don't know how to respond to this major bluff."
-- CNN Correspondents Fionnuala Sweeney, Brent Sadler and Rula Amin contributed to this report.