Syria Accuses Israel of Pushing War

Syria Monday accused Israel of inviting war one day after Israeli missiles destroyed Syrian radar installations in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley.

Two Israeli fighter jets fired missiles on the Syrian radar position Sunday. According to Syrian and Lebanese reports, two Syrian soldiers and a Lebanese soldier were wounded in the attack and the installation was destroyed.

Israel said Sunday's attacks were in response to Syrian-backed Hezbollah attacks in the Chebaa Farms region Friday, which injured two Israeli soldiers. Chebaa Farms is part of the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied from Syria. However, Syria and Lebanon claim the land belongs to Lebanon.

Hezbollah has pledged to continue fighting Israel until it vacates Chebaa Farms.

It was the second attack by Israel on Syrian positions in Lebanon since Sharon has been in office. Hezbollah responded Sunday by firing rockets and mortars at Israeli military positions in disputed territory along the Israeli-Lebanese border. Israeli artillery fired back, wounding a farmer, Lebanese officials said.

While Hezbollah was quick to hit back, militarily weak Syria was unlikely to challenge Israel directly. But neither was Syria likely to try to rein in Hezbollah, as Israel has insisted it do.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "shoulders alone the dire consequences for dragging the region to the brink of an explosion, of which nobody is ignorant of the outcome and repercussions regionally and internationally," Khalaf al-Jarrad, the editor of the Syrian newspaper Tishrin, wrote in a front-page editorial Monday. Tishrin is a government mouthpiece.

Al-Jarrad accused Sharon of trying to divert attention from the Israeli-Palestinian clashes by "aggravating the situation in the region and attacking Lebanon and a Syrian radar station."

Al-Baath, newspaper of Syria's ruling Baath party, charged in an editorial that Israel "is pushing the region to war, believing that war might rid it of its suffocating crises."

The Tishrin editorial said Syria and Lebanon were committed to a negotiated settlement in the Mideast, but that "does not nullify their right to resistance and turning back aggression in all possible and legitimate means."

"This criminal activity by Hezbollah takes place under the authorization of Syria, whose army has a presence in Lebanon," the Israeli Cabinet statement said.

On April 16, Israeli warplanes destroyed another Syrian radar station in Lebanon, killing three Syrian soldiers. That raid, which came after Hezbollah fire killed an Israeli soldier around Chebaa Farms, was the first Israeli attack on such a significant Syrian target in years. Syria threatened to retaliate but never did, and Hezbollah operations eased.

But Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said Sunday that his Islamic militant guerrilla group would no longer sit back. Israel was "playing with fire," he said at a Hezbollah rally not far from the radar site Israel destroyed hours earlier.

Nasrallah's deputy, Sheik Naim Kassem, said later that Hezbollah would continue to attack Israeli troops "as will become evident in the coming days."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.