Lebanese PM: Government Was Unaware of Hezbollah Raid

Hamas calls Hezbollah cross-border attack 'heroic operation'; Syria blames Israel for violence.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Wednesday Beirut did not condone the cross-border Hezbollah attack against Israel, in which two Israel Defense Forces soldiers were kidnapped and seven others killed.

"The government was not aware of and does not take responsibility for, nor endorses what happened on the international border," Siniora told reporters after an emergency cabinet meeting.

He condemned Israel's retaliation and said his government would call for a UN Security Council meeting.

The ruling Palestinian faction Hamas on Wednesday praised Hezbollah, saying it would help a campaign to free 1,000 Palestinians.

"This is a heroic operation carried out against military targets and so it is a legitimate operation, especially as it took place in occupied Lebanese territory," Hamas political bureau member Mohammad Nazzal told Reuters.

"Any military operation that targets the occupation serves the Palestinian people and Arab causes," he said in an interview in Cairo, where he came to reassure the Egyptian government that Hamas wants Egyptian mediation with Israel to resume on a deal including freedom for an Israeli soldier held in Gaza.

"We think this operation will serve ... the issue of the prisoners," he added.

But Hamas had no prior knowledge of the Hezbollah operation and it was too early to decide whether the two separate organisations would coordinate their demands that Israel release Palestinian and Arab prisoners, he said.

Lebanese security sources said the Hezbollah operation took place across the border from the Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab.

Nazzal, who is based in Damascus, dismissed U.S. and Israeli allegations that Syria was responsible. "If something happens in Iraq, or Lebanon or Palestine, they accuse Syria. Everyone knows that in fact Syria has nothing to do with this matter.

Nazzal arrived in Egypt on Tuesday and had talks on Wednesday with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, the official who has handled mediation with Israel on the fate of Shalit, captured near Gaza on June 25.

He said he wanted to reassure Egypt that Hamas had no reservations about the mediation efforts, which foundered on irreconcilable differences over the timing of prisoner releases.

Nazzal said Israel had proposed that Hamas free the Israeli soldier in return for a promise that Israel would free Palestinian prisoners at a later date.

"They (the Egyptians) had an opinion that it was possible to take guarantees from the Israelis but we don't trust the Israelis, because we have good experience with them," he said.

Asked why he had come to Cairo now, he said: "There were rumours that there were reservations on Hamas's part on the Egyptian role and that there was a tension in the relationship. We wanted to reassure (them) that we have no reservations."

Syria blames Israel for violenceSyria blamed Israel for the violence in Lebanon and Palestinian territories Wednesday as it came under intensified U.S. criticism for the kidnappings.

Syria maintains close ties to Lebanon's Hezbollah and plays host to the top leadership of the Palestinian militant Hamas group, whose fighters in the Gaza Strip seized IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit last month.

Ties to the two groups have put Damascus at the center of blame by Israel and the United States in the crisis over the captured soldiers.

Arab League calls for emergency meetingThe Arab League called Wednesday for an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers to discuss escalating violence along the Lebanese border after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers, an official said on Wednesday.

"We are concerned about an escalation," the Arab League official told Reuters. "There's a bad humanitarian situation in Gaza, and we don't want that spilling over into Lebanon."

The official said Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa had been holding consultations throughout the day to arrange a meeting in Cairo, where the 22-member league is based. But no date had been set.