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Bloody attack highlights tension between Israel, Syria

October 15, 1995
Web posted at: 4:00 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT)

From International Reporter Jerrold Kessel

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- In the deadliest attack Hezbollah guerrillas have launched this year, a roadside bomb demolished an armored vehicle Sunday morning in south Lebanon, leaving six Israeli soldiers dead and one wounded.

casket It was the second bloody blow within days inflicted by Hezbollah on Israel in its self-styled security zone. Three other soldiers were killed Thursday night in a similar attack.

mourners To evade the ambushes, the Israelis often move their men from outpost to outpost in civilian cars with Lebanese plates. But the camouflage didn't stop the Iranian-backed guerrillas this time.

Hezbollah is said to be upgrading both its performance and its weaponry. "The technological devices of these roadside bombs are better because this is something they got from the Iranians," explained Zeev Schiff, an Israel strategic affairs analyst. "Iranians are involved directly and indirectly in all this."

guns More Israeli tanks and heavy guns have been seen moving into the security zone. Suspected Hezbollah strongholds have reportedly been pounded, and fire raked the ravines of the hilly terrain. Two guerrillas were reported killed in a clash on Saturday, and the war of attrition threatens to escalate.

An Israeli expert said Syrian President Hafez al-Assad has a powerful point to make in backing Hezbollah. "This is a very brutal tactic I would say to signal to Israel that if Israel wants peace and quiet in Lebanon, the address is Damascus, the price is the Golan (Heights)," observed Moshe Maoz of Hebrew University.

In contrast to the recent Israeli-Palestinian peace, talks to forge an Israeli-Syrian deal involving Israel's withdrawal from the Golan Heights are badly bogged down. Strenuous United States efforts to revive the negotiations have been unsuccessful.

Israel complains Syria is not curbing Hezbollah and army commanders have been warning of retaliation. There will be temptation to strike back hard, however risky that may be.

Schiff "We have to be careful not to enlarge the battle because this is exactly what the Hezbollah wants," Schiff said. "If we shall bomb them then they will use it to shell Israeli settlements and cities in the Galilee."

Schiff believes the war will continue until there is a peace between Israel, Lebanon and the Syrians (210K AIFF sound or 210K WAV sound). "We have to see it as this triangle," he stressed.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who already has conferred with his generals, will face intense pressure to launch an effective military response. Equally, however, he'll be weighing the impact of his decisions on Syria's stance at the negotiating table.

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