Talks move Israel close to ceasefire

Israel is close to a ceasefire in Lebanon after six days of negotiations by Warren Christopher, the US Secretary of State, Israeli television reported last night.

The written agreement, the report said, was being finalised in Jerusalem and Damascus.

The terms of the ceasefire - after the 15-day bombardment of south Lebanon by Israel - include an early resumption of peace talks between Syria and Israel, Syria to rein in Hizbollah, the Lebanese guerrilla movement, and the ceasefire to be monitored by a committee consisting of Israel, the United US and Syria.

It is unclear if two of the main points of disagreement have been resolved. These centre on Israel's demand for an end to attacks by Lebanese guerrillas on Israeli troops occupying south Lebanon and Israel's right to retaliate by firing into Lebanese villages. Israeli television said the breakthrough came when Mr Christopherthreatened to abandon his shuttle talks and Shimon Peres, the Israeli Prime Minister, said he would escalate the conflict.

Even with a written agreement, the real price paid by Syria, Israel, Lebanon and Hizbollah for a ceasefire may be unclear because of unwritten understandings. In the past Syria has said it supports the right of resistance of Hizbollah in south Lebanon and opposes Israel's right to retaliate against civilian villages. Mr Peres, for his part, needs to show Israeli voters that he has made gains through launching Operation Grapes of Wrath 15 days ago.

Earlier, Israel appeared to be expanding the area it is bombarding with an air strike against a base of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command. This is a Palestinian movement led by Ahmed Jibril which rejects the Oslo accords. The real reason for the attack is probably to increase pressure on Syria since Mr Jibril is a Syrian ally and the base is in part of the Bekaa valley controlled by Syrian troops.

Mr Christopher met with President Assad yesterday in what diplomats say is the culmination of his six-day shuttle between Jerusalem and Damascus. In addition to rejecting Israel's demand for effective immunity from attack for its troops in the occupation zone and the right to fire into Lebanese villages, Mr Assad had earlier turned down an Israeli demand that he take responsibility for restraining Hizbollah.

Israel's public posture is to assert that it can continue its bombardment as long as it wants in the face of intense diplomatic pressure and unfavourable publicity in the international media. A senior Israeli military officer said yesterday that the main message was that "Israel is going to need stamina and patience". He asserted that the ability of Hizbollah to fire Katyusha rockets into northern Israel is being reduced.

In reality the 23,000 shells and 523 air strikes launched by Israel - going by figures from UN officers in the area - have failed to achieve their aim of suppressing Katyusha fire. Since 11 April some 1,000 Katyusha have been fired. The Israeli army said yesterday that it has killed 50 Hizbollah, though the guerrillas say their losses are lower. More certain are the figures for civilian losses with at least 155 Lebanese dead as against three Israeli civilians seriously wounded.

Israeli polls show that so far Mr Peres has gained little through Grapes of Wrath except to alienate Arab-Israeli voters. But the right-wing Likud party is preparing to blame him for grossly mismanaging the campaign, unless he can show that he has improved on the 1993 understanding, brokered by Mr Christopher, with Syria and Hizbollah. .

An ominous development for Mr Peres are the signs that Hamas, the Islamic militant movement, is preparing to send more suicide bombers into Israeli cities. The body of a suicide bomber, who killed himself accidentally, was discovered yesterday on a soccer field in south Jerusalem.

The government found political triumph, however, in the revocation of clauses offensive to Israel by three quarters of the Palestinian National Council meeting in Gaza. It may respond by partly withdrawing from Hebron in the south of the West Bank as early as this week-end.

Mr Peres said the revocation was: "the greatest ideological change of the century", adding he had always said "Arafat could be trusted". He will use the change in the covenant to resume negotiations on the final phase of the Oslo accords on 4 May. He must do this to conciliate Arab- Israelis, without whom he will lose the election, and to show Israeli voters that that the Oslo peace negotiations are alive and well.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Bafetibis Gomis of Swansea City is stretchered off at White Hart Lane
football
News
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
News
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
Sport
Louis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
News
The spider makes its break for freedom
VIDEO
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
people
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
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: Freelance AutoCAD Technician

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Freelance AutoCAD Technician is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Order Processor

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Graphic Designer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical and Electrical Engineer

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot