Syria and Israel in dispute over border incident

09 January 2003
A war of words broke out between Israel and Syria on 9 January after Israeli forces shot dead one Syrian and captured another in the Golan Heights, along a normally-quiet ceasefire line. Syria is still technically at war with Israel. The Israeli military's version of events is that they came under fire from armed Syrians who had crossed into Israeli-occupied territory. However, a spokesman for the Syrian military told the state news agency that the men had not crossed the border when they came under fire, and accused Israel of violating the ceasefire. Tel Aviv played down the clash, calling it an isolated incident. The last time the border was breached was in September 2001, when Israeli soldiers discovered a weapons cache on their side of the dividing line.

Israel has been concerned about its Lebanese border in recent weeks, over fears that Islamic movement Hezbollah, which is based in the border region, might use the disruption caused by any US war on Iraq to launch an attack. Hezbollah has the same worries about Israel. 'It is possible, but not definite, that the Zionist enemy will attack Lebanon during an American aggression against Iraq,' Hezbollah's deputy secretary- general Naim Qassem told the local Daily Star on 6 January. Newspaper reports in Israel have suggested that weapons may be being smuggled out of Iraq and through Syria to Lebanon and Hezbollah, in order to be used against Israel - suspicions heightened by an unexplained explosion in the Bekaa valley on 29 December.

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