Israel has accused Syria’s President Asad of using guerrilla attacks on Israeli soldiers in south Lebanon to lever concessions from Tel Aviv in the peace talks. The Israeli government has been placing increasingly strong emphasis on the need to reach a settlement with Damascus. Deputy foreign affairs minister Yossi Beilin said on 8 February that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s government would resign if it failed to win a referendum on any return to Syria of land on the Golan Heights.

Four Israeli soldiers were killed by Hezbollah fighters on 7 February in Israel’s self-styled ‘security zone’ in south Lebanon. Uri Lubrani, Israel’s policy chief for Lebanon, told Israeli army radio on 9 February: ‘Asad, in showing permissiveness for Hezbollah acts, demonstrates by this that he has another card in the talks he is conducting with us, and he will want to exact a price for every action he takes to remove the threat of this card.’

Tel Aviv says that, with its heavy military presence in Lebanon, Syria could curb the Hezbollah.