Israel, breaking silence, confirms strike in Syria

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JERUSALEM, Oct 2 (Reuters) After nearly a month of official silence, Israel confirmed today that its air force carried out a strike inside Syrian territory on September 6.

Israel had until now refused to confirm or deny that any air strike had taken place, though the incident was publicly confirmed by Syrian and Western officials.

Israeli officials said the strike took place deep inside Syria last month.

Military censors continued to censor other details.

Damascus says Israel bombed an empty area after air defence systems confronted the aircraft.

Some US officials have linked the raid to suspicions of secret nuclear cooperation between Damascus and North Korea. Damascus and North Korea have denied any nuclear ties.

Other reports suggested that the raid may have targeted Iranian arms bound for the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla movement.

In an interview with the BBC broadcast yesterday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would not rule out a military response to the Israeli air raid.

Syria has accused Israel of making excuses for war by spreading what it described as false reports that an Israeli air raid targeted a site linked to weapons of mass destruction.

Diplomats in Damascus say at least four Israeli warplanes crossed deep into Syria during last month's operation.

Syria and Israel are formally at war. Peace talks between them collapsed in 2000 over the scope of an Israeli pullout from the Golan Heights, a plateau which the Jewish state captured from Syria in 1967.


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