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November 19, 2002

Syria Brushes Off U.S. Call to Close Jihad Office

Perhaps once in the sky to strike at Iraq, the US might "lose" a few smart bombs over Syria in key spots.
DAMASCUS - Syria Tuesday rebuffed a U.S. request to close the Damascus office of Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for killing 12 Israelis in a Hebron ambush last week.

It said the office had nothing to do with the attack in the West Bank city.

The move marked the latest round of sparring between Washington and Damascus over its backing of Palestinian militant groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which the U.S. administration calls "terrorist" but Syria backs as legitimate resistance to Israel.

Syria's Foreign Ministry said Secretary of State Colin Powell made the request in a letter at the weekend, but said the Hebron attack, which killed nine soldiers and three Jewish settlers, was the product of Israel's occupation, not the work of Jihad in Damascus.