JERUSALEM (Apr. 25)
As Israel’s military campaign against Hezbollah entered its third week, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher appeared downbeat about the state of negotiations to end the fighting.
Speaking to reporters Thursday in Jerusalem after talks with Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Christopher seemed less optimistic about his rounds of shuttling between Jerusalem and Damascus.
Peres gave little added cause for optimism, saying that the differences between Israel and Syria on how to end the fighting were “very serious.”
Christopher, confronted with rejections of the latest cease-fire proposal from Israel as well as from Lebanon and Syria, returned Thursday to Syria for two sets of meetings during the day with President Hafez Assad.
Syria and Lebanon have reportedly rejected an Israeli proposal that would effectively halt strikes by Hezbollah fundamentalists within Israel’s security zone.
Syria, widely believed to control Hezbollah attacks on Israel, also reportedly refused to serve as a guarantor of peace in the region once a cease-fire is achieved.
Christopher was originally to continue his shuttling until an agreement was reached.
But according to some reports, he may return to Washington this weekend.
Meanwhile, the cross-border fighting continued.
Israel, which launched Operation Grapes of Wrath on April 11 in response to Hezbollah’s Katyusha attacks on northern Israel, continued to bombard Hezbollah targets in Lebanon on Thursday.
In one strike, Israeli warplanes destroyed a Katyusha rocket stockpile in the Bekaa Valley that belonged to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The head of Israeli army intelligence, Maj. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, said in a briefing that the site was targeted after it was discovered that the Popular Front was providing Hezbollah with the rockets.
Despite the continued Israeli air and artillery strikes, Hezbollah continued to rocket northern Israel on Thursday.
One bus driver and three soldiers were lightly injured in rocket attacks. Some damage to property was also caused.
Reports from Lebanon said at least 10 people were injured in Israeli shelling on Thursday.
Israel’s deputy chief of staff, Matan Vilnai, said the Israeli operation should be viewed as a long-term action.