IAF Planes Send Message to Assad by Flying Over His Summer Palace

Israel Air Force planes flew last week at low altitudes over Syrian President Bashar Assad's palace. The flight pattern was designed to deliver an Israeli message to Syria: Damascus must take steps to restrain Hezbollah activity on the border with Lebanon.

In a meeting last week with U.S. Middle East envoy William Burns, Syria's President Assad declined requests that his country curb Hezbollah's activity.

Israel Channel One reported on Friday that IAF combat planes flew over Assad's summer palace in northern Syria. Their flight was undertaken in response to Hezbollah's use of anti-aircraft weapons last Sunday - the Hezbollah shelling of the town of Shlomi in the Galilee, left one Israeli youngster, Haviv Dadon, dead.

The northern border has in recent days remained quiet.

Apart from the flight over the Syrian ruler's palace, Israel has focused its responses on the diplomatic track. Using U.S. officials as a conduit, Israel has delivered messages to the Syrian and Lebanese governments, saying that it will take military steps should Hezbollah's anti-aircraft shelling not desist.

U.S. officials relay that Assistant Secretary of State William Burns paid a surprise visit to Damascus last week, at the conclusion of a Middle East tour. While Bashar Assad rejected Burns' request for help restraining Hezbollah, he demonstrated flexibility and a desire to assent to American requests on Iraqi matters, these U.S. officials explained.

Burns met with Assad and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shara. The U.S. envoy brought up a number of issues, ranking the escalation of violence on the Israeli-Lebanese border and Hezbollah aggression as a top priority item, the U.S. officials added. Rejecting requests to restrain Hezbollah, Assad said Hezbollah's actions last week were responses to Israeli provocation. He also refused to promise that Syria will play a more positive role in the Israeli-Arab peace process. America should act to restrain Israel, the Syrian president said; and Assad called on the U.S. to find a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue.