Israeli officials held Syria responsible Friday for a wave of attacks against Israeli occupiers in Lebanon, warning of possible military intervention to quell them and a resulting negative impact on peace talks.
More fighting raged Friday as Arab guerrillas attacked positions held by Israelis and their surrogate militia in Israel's self-styled "security zone" in southern Lebanon, security sources said.Guerrillas hurled grenades at two outposts and machine-gun fire echoed in the zone's eastern sector. Two Israeli helicopter gunships were seen strafing suspected guerrilla infiltration trails in olive groves near the scene, said the sources, who couldn't be named in line with standing regulations.
Israeli artillery gunners also hammered guerrilla strongholds in positions that overlook the security zone.
Guerrillas unleashed at least nine Soviet-designed Katyusha rockets on the zone's village of Aishiyeh.
"We are looking for a way to get control of this terrorism without the need for a large scale operation that would necessitate us entering Lebanon and putting things in order," Uri Lubrani, Israel's peace talk coordinator with Lebanon, told Army radio.
The warnings came a day after two soldiers were killed in an ambush in Aishiyeh and a Jewish settler was fatally shot in an ambush in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
A Lebanese guerrilla and a Palestinian fighter also died in confrontations with Israelis on Thursday.
The violence escalated as U.S. State Department envoy Dennis Ross met with Israelis and Palestinians to try to break a negotiating deadlock.
Ross met Thursday night with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and was meeting Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and a Palestinian delegation today.
A key difference Ross needs to bridge is the conflicting claims to Jerusalem. Israel vows to keep control over the whole city and wants the issue kept vague until a final stage of talks. Palestinians want a specific commitment to discuss east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 war and later annexed.
A newspaper quoted Rabin as opening the meeting with Ross by asking him to convey a warning to Syria that "Israel views very seriously the attacks in the north."
He noted that Thursday's ambush was claimed by a Damascus-based Palestinian faction, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily said.
"They acted with Syria's knowledge," Rabin was quoted as saying. He warned that peace talks could be harmed if such violence continues.