Israeli and Syrian officers in talks

Officials in Jerusalem yesterday confirmed the first high-level military contacts between Israel and Syria for 45 years after the two foes resumed peace talks under American auspices in Washington. At the same time tension was rising in Lebanon, where two Israeli soldiers were killed in a clash with Islamic guerrillas.

The fundamentalist group Hizbollah - a major loser in the event of a peace treaty - has warned of "special operations" in revenge for a car bombing in Beirut on Wednesday which killed at least three people.

"God willing, we will take vengeance on the Zionist gangs," vowed Haj Hussein Khalil, chairman of the group's political bureau, who blamed Israel for the attack.

One of the dead was named by Hizbollah as Fuad Mugniyeh, a "security official" in the militia and brother of Imad Mugniyeh, the prime suspect in Hizbollah's kidnappings of westerners in the Eighties. Imad Mugniyeh is wanted by the United States and is detested by the Syrian government. He has taken refuge in Tehran.

The renewed diplomatic movement between Israel and Syria was viewed by some analysts in Beirut as almost certainly linked to intensified pressure on Hizbollah, whose fighters have exacted a steady toll of Israeli casualties in occupied southern Lebanon.

Hizbollah's radio station in Ba'albek, the "Voice of the Oppressed," quoted the movement's spiritual head, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, as saying "this crime was designed to create confusion on the domestic front".

Thursday's announcement by the official Syrian news agency that the ambassadors of Syria and Israel were to meet in Washington was bad news for militant groups opposed to the American-brokered peace negotiations.

It showed that President Hafez al-Assad was ready after a long pause to give public endorsement to the process in the face of sceptical Arab opinion. Diplomats believe the two sides have made more progress during informal discussions than official pronouncements suggest. A peace treaty between Israel and Syria would very likely be followed by another accord with Lebanon.

The Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, yesterday complained that the Syrian-Israeli talks were "too slow and too low" because President Assad was dragging his feet and keeping talks at a junior level.

The two ambassadors, Itamar Rabinovich and Walid Muallem, were trying to narrow differences over how far Israeli troops would pull back on the occupied Golan Heights, and the timetable.

The presence of senior military officers marked a significant step forward in the discussions. It was the first time senior Israeli and Syrian officers had met officially since the ceasefire accord of 20 July 1949 signed on the Greek island of Rhodes. The countries have remained in a state of war since.

Israel's army radio said that the Chief of Staff, Lieutenant- General Ehud Barak, was present as was General Danny Yatom, military adviser to the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin.

The names of the Syrian officers attending were not released although Brigadier- General Ghazi Kenaan, a close confidant of President Assad, is the member of the Syrian high command with most influence over policy in Lebanon.

Some 35,000 Syrian troops are in Lebanon to underwrite Syria's political role and to support the pro-Syrian government in Beirut.

Sport
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne celebrates after salvaging a point with the Southampton equaliser
footballAston Villa vs Southampton report
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
Out and about: for 'Glee' character Bert Hummel, having a gay son was a learning curve
lifeEven 'cool' parents need help parenting gay teens
News
peopleJack Monroe accuses David Cameron of 'misty-eyed rhetoric'
News
The illusionist believes hypnotism helped him to deal with the lack of control he felt growing up
people
News
Tana Ramsay gave evidence in a legal action in which her husband, Gordon, is accusing her father, Christopher Hutcheson, of using a ghost writer machine to “forge” his signature
peopleTana Ramsay said alleged discovery was 'extremely distressing'
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Windsor and Aljaz Skorjanec rehearse their same-sex dance together on Strictly Come Dancing
TV
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Life and Style
fashion'To start singing with Pharrell is not that bad, no?'
News
news
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

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Argyll Scott International: Risk Assurance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Hi All, I'm currently recruiting for t...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

£23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible