Fury Grips Syria Over Lebanon Attacks

DAMASCUS — The daily Israeli bombardment of Lebanon and the floods of refugees pouring in have set off a wave of anger through Syria.

“How can people watch this destruction in Lebanon and do nothing,” Hassan Majed Ali, president of the Union of Engineers in Damascus told IPS. “What is happening in Lebanon is opposed by 100 percent of us here in Syria.”

Ali, who heads a union of 19,000 engineers, said “the Israelis have not complied with any of the UN resolutions since 1949. Why hasn’t the world forced Israel to comply with UN resolution 224 which told them to withdraw from Arab lands? And now nobody is forcing them to stop their destruction of Lebanon.”

This will also be Israel’s loss, he said. “The Lebanese, our brothers, have now lost everything. And now the Israelis have lost what friendship they may have had left with the Arab world.”

Maher Skanderani, a 37-year-old merchant in downtown Damascus said everyone is furious over what is happening in Lebanon. “And everything which is happening illustrates the main problem — which is Israel invading Palestine and taking Palestinian land.”

Anger is spilling over against the U.S. government – and its citizens. Ola Saleh, a 25-year-old civil rights volunteer from Latakia said: “In Syria people used to differentiate between the Bush regime and the American people. But now not only do Syrians not respect the Bush regime, they no longer respect the American people for allowing this to happen.”

Few believe that the Israeli attack is a reaction to the abduction of two soldiers. “Israel has a political and military strategy, they do not react,” said 60-year-old Ibrahim Yakhour, information and communications advisor at the State Planning Commission in Damascus.

“They understand the region very well and know how to exploit it. When they lose two soldiers they exploit this for their own interests.”

Syria could become involved in the conflict, he said. “It just depends if they (Israel) have this in their plans.”

Yakhour said Israel has “used American actions in their own interests,” and has in the past “pushed Arab states to reactions which they can exploit for their own interests.”

Others, like 45-year-old literary critic Emad Huria, believe that Syria will inevitably become involved in the conflict. “The whole region is now involved,” he told IPS. “If not today, then tomorrow.”

Hamad al-Khatib, 26-year-old owner of a mobile phone shop told IPS that “Israel doesn’t care about law, and eventually they will involve Syria in this disaster. But Syrians will always resist the plans of the Israeli government, because we have our dignity.”

Ali from the Union of Engineers said Syria has been put in a difficult situation already by the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

“If we had said the invasion of Iraq was democratic, Bush would support us. We in Syria opposed Saddam, but we are not with this destruction and killing of Iraqis in Iraq. I don’t know anyone in the world who supports what is happening in Iraq.”

Ali finally told this correspondent: “We welcome you to Syria. We welcome you to Damascus. But don’t kick me from my house.”