BAGHDAD, Iraq — Arab leaders on Sunday condemned Israel's airstrike on a suspected terrorist training camp in Syria and warned that it could lead to an increase in violence in the region.
There was an added measure of disquiet in the Middle East as Israel's strike deep into Syrian territory crossed new boundaries. It underscored how little progress the Bush administration has made in developing or enforcing a strategy to reduce violence and provocation by Palestinians and Israelis.
Some experts said Israel was striking farther afield in a broader warning to Arab leaders inclined to support Palestinian suicide attacks. Others viewed the Israeli action as a signal to President Bush that pressure on the Palestinian Authority to rein in militants has failed and that stronger measures are required to force a crackdown.
Israel is pursuing its policy of escalation...
(the raid) worsens the situation and threatens to broaden the scope of the violence.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry
One Saudi adviser to the royal court said he viewed the Israeli action as a step that would have military credibility in the region, but that at the same time avoided the risk of civilian casualties that could result from striking hard in the densely populated Palestinian territories.
In Cairo, the Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, termed the raid "state terrorism." He called an emergency meeting of the 22-member body and supported Syria's request for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
The raid, he said, "betrays Israel's aggressive intentions toward the Arabs, broadening the conflict in the region, and distances us from the path of peace."
In some Arab capitals, however, there was recognition that Israel's attack was a proximate result of the suicide attack on Saturday in Haifa, which killed 19 people, and there were calls for restraint on both sides. The militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing. Israeli officials said the airstrike was an effort to destroy one of he group's training camps in Syria.
In Iran, whose intelligence services have played an active role in supporting militant groups operating in Syria and Lebanon, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi called the raid as a "gross violation of Syrian territorial integrity and national sovereignty," the Iranian News Agency said.
"The Israeli attack against Syria is an attempt to divert the public opinion from the sufferings of Palestinian people arising from occupation of their country and the subsequent legitimate defense of the Palestinian nation against the occupying force," he said.
Jordan's foreign minister, Marwan al-Muasher, deplored the violence on both sides. Referring to the suicide bombing, he said, "The time has come to radically reconsider such military operations and operations carried out by certain organizations such as yesterday's."
"We cannot stay in this spiral of violence, which threatens the peace process, and Israel has to realize that its current policies are not leading to regional stability," he said in a statement carried by the official Petra news agency. He urged both parties to return to the "road map" toward peace laid out by the Bush administration because it "guarantees reciprocal commitments and puts an end to Israeli occupation."
Saudi Arabia did not immediately issue a statement on the raid as Crown Prince Abdullah, the kingdom's ruler, was receiving a visit from Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany in Riyadh. But before arriving in the Saudi capital, Mr. Schröder addressed a joint news conference in Cairo with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who said, "We condemn what happened today concerning the aggression against a brotherly state under the pretext that some organizations exist there."
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry emphasized the danger of broadening the conflict. "Israel is pursuing its policy of escalation," the ministry said in a statement, adding that the raid "worsens the situation and threatens to broaden the scope of the violence."
For his part, Mr. Schröder said regional peace efforts "become more complicated" when "the sovereignty of a country is violated."
France issued a Foreign Ministry statement saying the raid "constituted an unacceptable violation of international law and sovereignty rules."
Britain struck a more neutral tone, urging restraint and saying Israel was entitled to defend itself.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company