Syria: We chased off Israeli warplanes - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

6/28/06

Syria: We chased off Israeli warplanes

File: Israeli F-16s and an F-15 File: Israeli F-16s and an F-15
Syria says it chased Israeli warplanes out of its airspace Wednesday after what it called a "hostile and provocative act," Syrian state television reported Wednesday.

Israeli jets flew over the country home of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Ladekye, the Israeli military reported. Israeli television reported that al-Assad was at home at the time.

A banner on Syrian television reported that the Syrian air force intercepted the Israeli aircraft and "forced them to separate and leave the area." It called the Israeli airspace breach "an unacceptable, hostile and provocative act."

The Syrian statement did not mention the reported overflight of al-Assad's home.

The flyover occurred three days after Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit was kidnapped inside Israel. He is believed to be held captive by groups linked with Syria.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres has complained that Syria allowed Hamas political leaders based in Damascus to order Shalit's kidnapping.

Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon told Army Radio that Israel sought to assassinate Hamas' Syria-based political chief, Khalid Meshaal, according to The Associated Press.

"Khalid Meshaal, as someone who is overseeing, actually commanding the terror acts, is definitely a target," Ramon said, AP reported.

Three Palestinian militant groups said they were behind the 19-year-old corporal's kidnapping on Sunday: Hamas' military wing Izzedine al Qassam, the Army of Islam and the Popular Resistance Committees. The last group also claims to hold another hostage: 18-year-old Israeli settler Eliyahu Yitzhak Asheri.

Overnight Israeli aircraft hit Gaza's main electricity plant and key bridges that link the the Palestinian territory's northern and southern regions.

Later on Wednesday Israel issued a warning to residents of northern Gaza to leave their homes. As dusk fell, Israeli tanks could be seen firing into the northern Gaza area, which Palestinians have been using for months to fire rockets at Israel.

Earlier raids were focused on the southern end of the territory.

The Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority on Wednesday called for a swap with Israel -- Shalit in exchange for thousands of jailed Palestinians.

The PRC said the settler, Asheri, would be "butchered" unless Israel stopped its raid into southern Gaza.

In addition, The Associated Press reported that militants allied with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party claimed to hold a third captive, a 62-year-old Israeli from the central city of Rishon Lezion, whom they did not name.

Israeli police told AP that a 62-year-old man was missing, whom they identified as Noah Moskovitch.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas told Reuters that Israel is worsening the crisis with its raids.

"We stress that the occupation must stop the military escalation in order not to complicate the situation and worsen the crisis," said Haniya.

"We are following the existing crisis relating to the missing soldier ... We hope that this case will be a concluded in a suitable way."

No casualties have been reported in the Israeli military raids, the largest since Israel pulled thousands of troops and settlers from Gaza last year after 38 years of occupation.

Taher Nono, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry, said the ministry was calling on Arab governments to press for a "negotiated settlement" for the released of the Israeli soldier in exchange for jailed Palestinians, "especially women, children, the elderly and the sick prisoners" and long-term inmates.

The Palestinian Authority government said that Israel holds some 9,800 Palestinian prisoners.

Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mark Regev said to bargain with the Palestinian Authority over hostages would only result in more hostage incidents.

"People who take civilians and soldiers hostage and try to get ransom or to threaten us, it will not benefit them," Regev said. "It has to be a clear message, I think, from all democracies: If you take a hostage you are outside international norms, and you cannot expect to gain from hostage-taking."

'All targets' considered

Israel also conducted strikes on "open areas of southern Gaza Strip" on Wednesday.

The AP reported an Israeli airstrike on Rafah, Gaza, quoting witnesses who said two missiles fell about 200 meters apart, one in an empty training camp for Hamas. The other rocket hit an empty field nearby, and witnesses said they saw militants running away from the missile.

Israeli troops and armored vehicles crossed into southern Gaza early Wednesday, Israel's Defense Ministry said, with soldiers backed by artillery setting out from Kerem Shalom into Rafah.

The Israelis took up positions in Gaza shortly before 3 a.m. (8 p.m. ET) in the area where Shalit was abducted Sunday. Two other Israeli soldiers were killed in the weekend raid by Palestinian militants who tunneled into Israel.

Capt. Noa Meir, a military spokeswoman, said Israeli commanders have a "general idea" where Shalit was being held.

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his parliament Tuesday to expect "an extended campaign against the Palestinian Authority" unless Shalit was released.

"All targets" would be considered for possible action, Olmert said the day after ruling out any deals with militants for Shalit's release.

CNN's Paula Hancocks, John Vause and Avivit Dalgoshen contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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