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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 September 2007, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
Netanyahu 'admits Israeli strike'
Israeli opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu (file photo)
Mr Netanyahu is the first official to speak publicly on the issue
The Israeli opposition leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, has made the first apparent admission of Israel's involvement in an alleged air strike against Syria.

In a live interview on Israeli TV, Mr Netanyahu said he had congratulated Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the raid.

"I was a partner in the issue from the start, and I gave my backing," he said.

Mr Netanyahu was criticised for his remarks, after Israel had maintained an official policy of silence on the reported incident two weeks ago.

This is simply very dangerous conduct and the man is not worthy of leading
Labour party secretary general
Eitan Cabel

Speaking on Channel 1 news, Mr Netanyahu said: "When a prime minister does something that is important in my view and necessary to Israel's security... I give my backing."

When asked if he had personally congratulated Mr Olmert on the operation, Mr Netanyahu said: "Yes". But the Likud party leader refused to give details of the attack.

Labour party secretary general Eitan Cabel told state radio: "I have no idea if this was stupidity, folly or a desire to steal credit.

"This is simply very dangerous conduct and the man is not worthy of leading."

Likud MP Yuval Steinitz said the remarks "were not wise".

Rising tensions

Damascus says Israeli warplanes violated Syrian airspace in the north of the country on 6 September, and describe the incident as a "hostile act".

Map
The Syrian authorities say that the aircraft were forced away and that they fired their weaponry into a deserted area. Witnesses said the Israeli jets had been engaged by Syrian air defences in Tall al-Abyad, north of Raqqa and near the border with Turkey.

The Syrian government has briefed Western diplomats and complained to the United Nations.

US officials have indicated that at least one target in northern Syria was hit.

Israel and Syria technically remain at war and tensions between them have been rising in recent months.

The Syrian government has insisted that peace talks can be resumed only on the basis of Israel returning the Golan Heights, which it seized in 1967.

Israeli authorities, for their part, have demanded that Syria abandon its support for Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups before talks can begin.

The last peace talks between the two countries broke down in 2000.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Binyamin Netanyahu appearing on Israeli TV



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