Israel offers peace but retains option of force: Government prepares public opinion for possible escalation as fears grow over international condemnation

IN ITS first serious peace offer since the start of the fighting in Lebanon, Israel last night offered the United States a deal, saying it would accept a ceasefire if Washington found a way to persuade Syria to remove its support for Hizbollah. At the same time, however, Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, qualified the offer with the threat of greater military force should diplomacy fail.

Showing that it is prepared to move towards a ground war if necessary, Israel yesterday moved an armoured column on to Israeli-controlled land in southern Lebanon. The show of strength may be calculated to put pressure not only on the Hizbollah gunmen but also on the US to intervene diplomatically.

The offer of a truce was made by Mr Rabin in talks with US leaders yesterday. Israel hopes the US has enough leverage to persuade President Hafez al-Assad of Syria to curb the Islamic radicals. In particular, the US could offer to remove Syria from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism and offer aid in return for co-operation over Hizbollah, Israeli sources said.

Yesterday's deployment of the armoured column followed indications that the government is preparing Israeli public opinion for the possibility that the five-day-old air, sea and artillery assault may develop into a ground offensive.

Military chiefs told Israeli radio that gunmen of the pro-Iranian Hizbollah were increasing their presence in the south, suggesting that more drastic measures may yet be needed. A former head of the Northern Command military region, Yossi Peled, a reserve general, said on Israeli television last night that the objective of curbing Hizbollah may be impossible to achieve without sending in ground forces. But military analysts said Mr Rabin did not have the support of the Cabinet for such a move. The US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, arrives in Israel at the weekend on a tour intended to push forward the peace process.

Instead, the talks are certain to centre on how to end Israel's most intensive raids into Lebanon since 1982. Israel's Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, yesterday said Israel wanted to stop the fighting before Mr Christopher arrived. But he and Mr Rabin stressed that this could only come about after Hizbollah had ceased its rocket attacks across Israel's northern border.

However, there was no sign that Hizbollah was reconsidering its stance: several Israelis were injured yesterday when Katuysha rockets fell on northern settlements.

In Jerusalem, concern was expressed about the latest condemnation of Israel's attack by Washington, when the State Department explicitly accused Israel of harming Lebanon's civilian population. Israeli officials are particularly nervous about any attempts to compare policy in Lebanon with 'ethnic cleansing'.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
healthMeet the volunteer users helping to see if the banned drug can help cure depression and addiction
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Life and Style
tech
News
i100
News
Foo Fighters lead man Dave Grohl talks about the band's forthcoming HBO documentary series
people
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Direct Mail Machine Operative

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an i...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Day In a Page

Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The officials are caught in the web of US legal imperialism - where double standards don't get in the way

Caught in the web of legal imperialism

The Fifa officials ensnared by America's extraterritorial authority are only the latest examples of this fearsome power, says Rupert Cornwell
Bruce Robinson: Creator of Withnail and I on his new book about Jack the Ripper

'Jack the Ripper has accrued a heroic aura. But I'm going after the bastard'

The deaths of London prostitutes are commonly pinned on a toff in a top hat. But Bruce Robinson, creator of Withnail and I, has a new theory about the killer's identity
Fifa presidential election: What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards