Attacks Raise Fear of Wider War

Article excerpt

The expansion of Israeli-Palestinian fighting into Lebanon raises fear of a broader war erupting in the volatile Middle East.

More than one observer suspects Syria and Iran are behind the attacks that prompted Israel's military response -- and wonders if they may be next in Israel's gunsights.

"This military escalation (by) Hezbollah is extremely significant," said Wayne White, former deputy director of the U.S. State Department's intelligence office. "I find it very hard to believe that Hezbollah would have engaged in, one, rocket attacks on Israel and, two, the initiation of a hostage crisis with Israel, without consultations with Tehran."

Israel struck by land, sea and air against Lebanese targets Thursday after Hezbollah guerrillas kidnapped two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others. For nearly a third week, Israeli forces also hit targets in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas militants are holding another Israeli soldier.

The attacks on Hezbollah and on Lebanon's infrastructure -- including Rafik Hariri International Airport -- killed more than 50 civilians and wounded 100. Hezbollah retaliated by raining Katusha missiles on northern Israel, killing two civilians and wounding more than 50.

Yet David Schenker, a senior fellow of Arab politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, questioned "the wisdom of going after Lebanese infrastructure. I think the address is really Syria and Iran."

Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at New York's Sarah Lawrence College, is in Beirut and called the situation there "really serious. …