Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Syrian 'Air defenses' opened fire on intruder Israeli jets

Air defenses fired on Israeli warplanes that entered Syrian airspace early Wednesday and forced them to flee, state TV said as Mideast tensions escalated over the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by Palestinian militants.

State-run Syrian television said two Israeli planes flew near Syria's Mediterranean coast early Wednesday, and "national air defenses opened fire in the direction of the planes, and they dispersed.''

The announcement did not mention a claim by Israeli military officials that the fighter jets buzzed the summer residence of President Bashar Assad in the coastal city of Latakia.

The officials said on condition of anonymity that Assad was targeted because of the "direct link'' between Syria and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group holding Cpl. Gilad Shalit, 19, in the Gaza Strip. Syria hosts Khaled Meshaal, Hamas' exiled supreme leader.

"The overflight by two Israeli planes near the Syrian shores is an aggressive act and a provocation,'' the television news said, quoting an Information Ministry official it did not identify.



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