UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called Wednesday for the immediate release of kidnapped Israeli soldiers and condemned Israel’s immediate retaliation.
“I condemn without reservations the attack in southern Lebanon, and demand that Israeli troops be released immediately,” Annan said after a meeting in Rome with
Premier Romano Prodi.
Annan spoke hours after Hizbullah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid, triggering an Israeli assault with warplanes, tanks and gunboats against southern Lebanon as Israeli troops crossed the frontier to hunt for the captives.
'Occupation is what provokes Palestinian, Lebanese people'
”We would not want to see an expansion, an escalation of conflict in the region,” Annan said. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the Hizbullah raid ”an act of war” and held the Lebanese government responsible, vowing that the Israeli response “will be restrained, but very, very, very painful.”
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora phoned Annan and asked that he “prevent Israeli aggression” against Lebanon following the kidnappings.
Siniora also called on the international community to assist the casualties of the Israeli bombings.
Syria said Israel was responsible for the operation by its ally Hizbullah.
"Occupation is what provokes the Palestinian and Lebanese people," Vice President Farouq al-Shara told reporters.
'I urge that any Israeli action be both measured, proportionate'
Al-Sharaa made the comments at a press conference with Ali Larijani, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, whose country is also a top backer of Hamas and Hizbullah.
"When the Zionist entity attacks and slaughters the Palestinian people ... Resistance is necessary," Larijani said.
Geir Pedersen, the UN representative in Lebanon, asked Hizbullah to release the two IDF soldiers immediately, as did the EU and US Assistant Secretary of State David Welch.
UK Foreign Office Minister, Kim Howells said, “We condemn this morning’s infiltration and rocket attacks by Hizbullah on northern Israel. We are particularly concerned by reports that Israeli soldiers may have been kidnapped or killed.
“Hizbullah’s actions will further escalate an already tense situation in the region. A further escalation is in no one’s interest. We call on all parties to take actions to promote a rapid and peaceful resolution of the crisis and urge that any Israeli action be both measured and proportionate,” he said.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said he understood Israel's "fury" at a deadly cross-border raid by Hizbullah, but urged Israel to consider the future of regional peace in its response.