Monday, September 27, 2004

Analysis of Israel's kiilling Khalil in Damascus (JPost)

The tactical benefits of hitting Izz al-Din al-Sheikh Khalil are marginal. But the psychological and strategic benefits are great.

In keeping with tradition, Israel will never directly acknowledge that it had a hand in Sunday's assassination.

Nevertheless, the strike came after repeated finger-pointing and warnings by Israel that it would widen its war on terrorists and that no place was immune.

Perhaps Israel's Mossad was helped by a subcontractor? Perhaps they were even Syrian? The point is that Bashar Assad was caught red-handed. After declaring that the Hamas leadership had all cleared out of town, one of them found himself blown to bits right there in the capital.

Hamas was quick to blame Israel and that too further humiliated Assad by exposing that Israel or its agents could strike in the heart of his country with impunity. Leaders here know that Assad's options are limited. He would never seek a frontal conflict with a much mightier Israel. With the Americans breathing down his neck to remove his troops from Lebanon, retaliating at Israel through its proxy Hizbullah also seems remote.