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Israel Attacks Base in Syria Following Haifa Suicide Bombing - 2003-10-05

Israeli forces have struck inside Syria against what they claim is a Palestinian training camp for Islamic militants, in response to a suicide bombing Saturday that killed at least 19 people in Haifa.

The Israeli Defense Forces announced Sunday it had struck at a base deep inside Syria.

The statement said that the base is being used by what it called several Palestinian terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

It is believed to be the first time that Israeli forces have attacked targets inside Syria since 1982, when the Jewish state went to war against Palestinian forces in neighboring Lebanon.

The operation came after a Palestinian woman wrapped in explosives entered a beachside restaurant in Haifa on Saturday and blew herself up.

At least four children were among those killed in the blast, including a baby girl.

Islamic Jihad, which has its headquarters in Syria, claimed responsibility for the explosion.

Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner says the Israeli action is justified. He says that Syria has been repeatedly warned by the United States to close all the facilities of the Islamic Jihad inside the country.

Mr. Pazner says it is clear that Syria had ignored the demand and has only itself to blame for any Islamic Jihad bases in Syria that now come under attack.

He says that following the suicide bombing in Haifa it is now the policy of Israel to attack Islamic Jihad bases, in his words, wherever they are.

Israel on Sunday also demolished the family home of the Palestinian woman bomber who carried out the attack in Haifa.

The Israeli army said it was a warning to all Palestinian militants and those who assist them that they will pay a price for attacks on Israeli citizens.