Israeli Warplanes Make Warning Flight Over Syria

Wednesday, June 28, 2006; 3:06 PM

JERUSALEM, June 28 (Reuters) - Israeli warplanes flew over one of President Bashar al-Assad's palaces on Wednesday to warn Syria against supporting Palestinian militants who abducted an Israeli soldier, the Israeli army said.

Israeli media reports said four planes carried out the overflights at low altitude, early in the morning, and created several sonic booms.

An army spokeswoman said the planes flew over Assad's palace near the city of Latakia, "because the Syrian leadership supports and harbours terrorist leaders, among them Hamas, the kidnappers of the soldier".

Israeli media said Assad was at the palace at the time.

The armed wing of the ruling Hamas movement was among the three factions that took part in the cross-border raid into Israel from Gaza in which the soldier was seized on Sunday, but it has not said it is holding him.

Israeli leaders have accused Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal of being responsible for the kidnapping.

Exiled Hamas leaders say they were not involved in the operation to capture the soldier, but are taking seriously Israeli threats to kill them.

A senior Syrian official told Reuters that two Israeli planes had penetrated Syrian air space and that Syrian air defences forced them to leave. Israeli television said no ground to air missiles were fired at the Israeli aircraft.

"This is a provocative action and it is totally rejected," the Syrian official said.

Syrian political commentator Thabet Salem said in Damascus: "The Israelis are trying to make their problems into a regional one because the capture of the solider and settler is embarrassing for their military establishment."

(Additional reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Damascus) Reut18:56 06-28-06

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