Thursday 3 October 2002

Sharon stirs up conflict with Syria and Iran

Israel’s Ariel Sharon is intent on exploiting the opportunity provided by US plans for war in the Middle East to press forward his aim of creating a Greater Israel. For months he has sought to stoke up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and scupper any possibility for even the type of truncated Palestinian state promised under the Oslo Accords. Now he has significantly upped the ante, accusing Syria of supplying Hezbollah militants in south Lebanon with thousands of surface to air rockets capable of striking northern Israeli towns and cities and demanding Syria rein in the Islamic fundamentalist group. Hezbollah is on the US’s list of proscribed terrorist organisations.

Sharon’s accusation follows threats of military action against Lebanon if it diverts the waters of the Wazzani and Hasbani rivers, tributaries of the Jordan River that flow into Lake Tiberias in Israel and provide 10 percent of Israel’s water. Israeli soldiers threatened to fire on Lebanese workers when the engineer leading the project knocked over a UN border marker and only pulled back when the UN forces arrived and restored the marker. Defence Minister Benjamen Ben-Eliezer immediately issued a warning to Lebanon, saying, “Israel cannot tolerate this diversion of the waters of the Hasbani.... I trust the Americans to stop it.”

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