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November 20, 2002

Washington calls Israel to stop sorties over Lebanon; Damascus refuses closure of al-Jihad offices

We pay. You stay. So what if Lebanon under Syrian occupation allows mortars to be fired into Israel land?
The US Administration had asked Israel, through its under secretary of state David Satterfield, to stop the sorties of its warplanes over the Lebanese airspace very soon.

Meantime, the Israeli foreign ministry was informed by the US administration that it had called on Syria to close the offices of the Islamic Jihad movement on its territory, for which Damascus refused and reminded Washington that these offices are for media activities and that the operations are planned and carried out from inside occupied Palestine.

The Israeli publication Yediot Ahronot said that the US administration conveyed by the end of the week a protest against Israel on that its planes resumed during the two past weeks their sorties at a low altitude over the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

According to the paper Satterfield conveyed this protest during the talks he had held with official in the Israeli security departments. Satterfield said that it is not possible to justify their air sorties over Beirut, that they are for intelligence purposes, and it will be better that if Israel end them that very soon.

Meantime, the Syrian foreign ministry said that it had informed the US Department of State that the Palestinian offices in Damascus are just media offices and that the operations ( against Israel ) are not decided from Damascus.

The advisor for the foreign minister and the official responsible for the media at the foreign ministry, Butheina Shaaban, said that the ministry informed the Americans that these "offices are press offices to express its will since Israel has been (doing so) by all means, including terrorist means, had forced the Palestinians to leave their houses and live in tents in the Arab states." Shaaban said that "the operations are planned for and executed inside the occupied lands and not at instructions given to it from press offices that exist in certain Arab states."

The answer of the Syrian foreign ministry came at an American request to close the offices of the Islamic Jihad movement in Damascus.