US: Syria, Iran behind kidnapping in north
International community stands behind Israel following Hizbullah attack in north. White House point accusatory finger at Syria, Iran. Israel prepares for PR campaign to explain: Lebanese government responsible. Ambassador: Lebanon must neutralize Hizbullah - if it doesn’t, we will
The United States stood by Israel and pointed an accusing finger at Syria and Iran Wednesday night following the difficult Hizbullah attack in the north. Meanwhile, following an emergency meeting in Beirut, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said the government was unaware of the attack, and therefore rejected any responsibility.
A spokesperson for the National Security Council, Frederick Jones, said, “The United States condemns in the strongest terms this unprovoked act of terrorism, which was timed to exacerbate already-high tensions in the region and sow further violence."
"We also hold Syria and Iran, which directly support Hizbullah, responsible for this attack and the ensuing violence," Jones added. He noted that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in touch with both sides, and she was bearing the message that Hizbullah is responsible for the offensive, and Syria and Iran, who directly support Hizbullah, are also responsible.
According to Jones, Hizbullah terrorism hurts Lebanese interests and only proves the organization refuses to disarm and intends to continue its aggressions. “This is a direct threat on Lebanon’s security and the sovereignty of the Lebanese government.”
Rice, meanwhile, spoke with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni regarding the grave developments in the north. Rice expressed support for Israel, condemned the Hezbollah attack, and said the US would support the demand to release the kidnapped Israeli soldiers.
Ahead of an emergency cabinet meeting, Tourism Minister Yitzhak Herzog met with US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones. The ambassador condemned the Hizbullah attack and backed Israel’s accusation towards the Lebanese government that it was responsible for the attack which was carried out from its territory.
Foreign Ministry launches PR campaign
Meanwhile, senior officials in the Foreign Ministry expressed satisfaction with the European presidential statement censuring the Hizbullah’s attack which killed seven IDF troops and their kidnapping of two more soldiers. With that, the EU called for restraint on both sides.
The Foreign Ministry readied itself for an uphill diplomatic battle in the next few days, and prepared a PR onslaught to communicate Israel’s stance on the matter to the world community. Israel is expected to charge that Hizbullah, as part of the sovereign Lebanese government, instigated the escalation. Israel will emphasize that it completely withdrew from Lebanon to the internationally recognized border years ago, and will claim its right to self defense and to defend its soldiers and citizens.
Israel was expected to demand the dismantlement of Hizbullah, which is recognized as a terror organization according to the international definition. Israel will further demand the international community must insist on the organization’s dismantlement.
Israeli Ambassador to the US, Danny Ayalon, said in an interview with CNN that Israel would continue its military operation in Lebanon until the soldiers are found. He clarified that in the absence of a Lebanese government that can control the situation, Israel is forced to act in Lebanese territory against Hizbullah terrorist infrastructure.
Ayalon rejected Hizbullah's proposal of negotiations to exchange prisoners. “They are the aggressors, and then they want to talk,” he remarked. If we negotiate, he added, they will attack again and ask to negotiate again. This attack comes after we retreated completely from Lebanon according to the UN charter, Ayalon said.
Ayalon charged that Hizbullah was trying to set up an equation to exchange the soldiers for terrorists with blood on their hands. Regarding Lebanon, he said: “It must neutralize Hizbullah. If it doesn’t, we will.” If the Lebanese government fails to bring about the release of the kidnapped soldiers, he added, we will do all we can to bring them home safely. He said Israel would continue military operations until the soldiers were found. “Israel has no choice but to act,” he said.
ADL backs Israel
Tthe Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also expressed its "continued and steadfast solidarity with Israel," in a statement issued by the organization Wednesday.
The statement read: “ADL supports Israel’s labeling the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah near the Lebanese border as ‘an act of war.’ The League also urges the international community to step up their efforts to help free the Israeli servicemen being held in Lebanon and Gaza and to demand the end of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.”
Yitzhak Benhorin contributed to the report