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      Syria Reports Firing at Israeli Planes

      Syria announces it fired at Israel Air Force planes that allegedly penetrated its northern air space. PM Olmert says he knows nothing.
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 9/6/2007, 3:27 PM

      Ongoing military tension between Syria and Israel took the form of a Syrian attack against an Israeli planes over northern Syria early Thursday morning.  So reports Syria, confirming an event that was earlier recorded by international satellites.  

      "The Israeli plane arrives from the Mediterranean Sea towards northeastern Syria and broke the sound barrier," the Syrian announcement stated. "Anti-aircraft fire was fired that forced it to leave, after it threw out ammunition without causing damage."

      "We have warned the Israeli enemy," Syria stated, "against taking such offensive action, and we reserve the right to retaliate appropriately."

      The IDF, after first announcing that it was checking into the matter, later stated, "We do not comment on such reports."  Prime Minister Olmert similarly said, after being asked about the matter, "I don't know what you are talking about." The United States, as well, refuses to comment.

      On the other hand, Arab-Israeli Cabinet Minister Raleb Majadele (Labor) said, "Israel has entered Syrian airspace before... I do not believe this will lead to war."

      Similarly, Prof. Eyal Zisser, Head of Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, says there is no need to worry about the alleged air incident. "I think it is dying down," he said. "There is an effort by both sides to contain it and take care of it... The Syrians are keeping a low profile. They issued a non-inflammatory statement that is worded carefully and which says that nothing serious happened. Israel is also saying it doesn't know if it happened or not, and that is a good way to lower the profile."

      Ziser added, however, that in light of the results of the Second Lebanon War, statements by Assad, and the strengthening of the Syrian army, "we need to be on the alert."

      Haaretz commentator Amos Harel surmises that Israel's silent response, and the release of a video clip showing army leaders smiling and drinking a toast to the new Jewish year, implies that Israel is pleased with the developments in Syria. "The dilemma is now in Syria's court," Harel writes, noting that Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad has not tended to respond militarily to such "humiliations" in the past.