Syrians Clean Up Bombed Area

Villagers swept up shattered glass and rubble from their homes Monday near a building ravaged in an Israeli bombing raid on a reputed militant training camp. Residents told The Associated Press the camp was abandoned years ago.

A resident of Al-Driej, a village a few hundred yards from the targeted building, said on condition of anonymity that he inspected the Ein Saheb camp after the attack and found parts of Russian-made automatic rifles. The man said he gave the pieces to police.

Nestled in a ravine of olive and fig trees, the heavily damaged camp -- including several one-room buildings made of concrete, a water tank and a swimming pool -- could be seen from this village, though it was officially off-limits. Al-Dreij is about 15 miles northwest of the Syrian capital of Damascus (search).

On Sunday, Israeli warplanes bombed what the military said was an Islamic Jihad training base in retaliation for the group's weekend homicide bombing in Israel that killed 19 people. Islamic Jihad has said it had no bases in Syria, and Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa (search) said Israel hit a civilian target.

The camp had been a military training center for the Syria-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, but an official from the group told AP it was abandoned seven years ago. He did not say why they left the area. The group is known to use Russian-made rifles, including Kalashnikovs (search).

On Monday, workers cleared rubble from what appeared to be a one-story house destroyed in the air raid. Pieces of metal and concrete bricks shattered by the rocket attack lay on a hill nearby. A green water tank, damaged by a blast, was next to a swimming pool half-filled with dirty water.

Three other one-room concrete structures in the Ein Saheb ravine remained untouched.

Al-Dreij residents spent Monday fixing broken windows and doors and cleaning their own homes, which also were damaged in the attack.

A young man named Omar said he did not hear the warplanes -- just the "terrifying" sound of four explosions from his house 500 yards from the camp.

"We felt that our house had moved from its place," said Omar, in his 20s, as he fixed the damaged door of his one-story house. "My father was sleeping in the garden that morning and saw the red flames of the explosions."

Omar, who spoke on condition that he be identified only by his first name, said the camp had been run by Palestinian militants but had stood empty for years.

A PFLP-GC leader told AP that a civilian guard was injured in the attack. He did not say if the guard was Syrian or Palestinian.

An aide to President Bashar Assad said the international community should condemn the attack, which he said Israel launched because it had failed to guarantee security and safety for its citizens.

"The unjust aggression and criminal act that was launched by Israel ... represents Israel's stumbling hostile policy, its natural racism and its failure to guarantee security and stability to Zionists," Suleiman Qaddah, the ruling Baath Party's assistant secretary-general, said at a ceremony marking the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

Sunday's attack was the first Israeli attack so deep inside Syria in three decades. Syrian security forces swiftly cordoned off the area and barred journalists from entering.

The attack was criticized by leaders in most Arab countries, as well as Britain, China, Russia and the European Union.

President Bush declined to criticize the airstrike, saying Israel "has got a right to defend herself." But he also said he had cautioned Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to try to avoid escalating tensions.

Syria's official news agency said Assad received a call from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said the international body would work to prevent a repeat of the Israeli attack.

Syria has urged the U.N. Security Council to condemn the airstrike. At an emergency U.N. meeting called at Syria's request Sunday, all council diplomats except U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte spoke against the airstrike. Most also condemned the homicide bombing Saturday in Israel.

More than 380,000 Palestinians live in Syria, mostly in 13 refugee camps that are controlled by Damascus-based Palestinian groups.

Syria and Israel -- fierce foes who remain technically at war -- have fought three major conflicts: in 1948, 1967 and 1973. Since the last war, their shared border has been calm.