The Middle East peace process has been thrown into jeopardy by Israel's massive armed assault against southern Lebanon.
BEIRUT, LEBANON, AUGUST 1982
1. ISRAELI WARPLANES DROPPING FLARES, SHELLS EXPLODING
2. DAMAGED BUILDINGS SOUTHERN LEBANON (JUNE-JULY 1982)
3. ISRAELI TANKS AND TROOPS ADVANCING BEIRUT, LEBANON (SEPTEMBER 1982)
4. BODIES IN STREETS OF SABRA AND CHATILA REFUGEE CAMPS TRIPOLI, LEBANON (DECEMBER 1983)
5. PLO FIGHTERS LEAVING ABOARD SHIP +SECURITY ZONE+, SOUTH LEBANON (1991)
6. SLA CAMP
7. SLA SOLDIERS EXERCISING, PATROLLING BEIRUT, LEBANON (JULY 1992)
8. HIZBOLLAH FIGHTERS, WEARING MASKS, MARCHING DURING ASHOURA CELEBRATIONS NABATIYEH, LEBANON (JULY 1992)
9. SHIITES CELEBRATING ASHOURA MADRID, SPAIN (OCTOBER 1991)
10. WIDE SHOT OF PEACE CONFERENCE IN SESSION
11. JAMES BAKER MEETING PALESTINIAN REPRESENTATIVES
12. SHAMIR WITH EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MAR MOUSSA
13. SYRIAN FOREIGN MINISTER FAROUQ AL-SHARA ADDRESSING SESSION
14. PALESTINIAN-JORDANIAN DELEGATION LISTENING
15. SHAMIR LISTENING
16. PALESTINIAN DELEGATE HAIDER ABDEL-SHAFI SPEAKING
17. DELEGATES APPLAUDING WASHINGTON DC, USA (DECEMBER 1991)
18. DELEGATES ARRIVING FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE TALKS +SECURITY ZONE+, SOUTH LEBANON (RECENT)
19. DEPORTEES PRAYING UNDISCLOSED LOCATION, SOUTH LEBANON (JULY 28)
20. ISRAELI TANK FIRING
21. SMOKE RISING FROM AREA HIT NEAR TYRE, LEBANON (JULY 27)
22. WOUNDED BEING TREATED UNDISCLOSED LOCATION, SOUTH LEBANON (JULY 27)
23. CARLOADS OF REFUGEES QUEUEING ALONG ROAD BEIRUT, LEBANON (JULY 27)
24. HIZBOLLAH DEMONSTRATION, FUNERAL FOR VICTIMS
25. HIZBOLLAH LEADER SPEAKING BAALBECK, LEBANON (JULY 26)
26. HIZBOLLAH SUPPORTERS AT RALLY
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Background: The Middle East peace process has been thrown into jeopardy by Israel's massive armed assault against southern Lebanon. The Washington talks have been stalemated for months, and U.S.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher is about to embark on a fresh effort to persuade Middle Eastern leaders to return to the negotiating table.
But this week's events in Lebanon place a huge question mark over his chances of success. The biggest fear now is that Arab indignation over Israel's attack on Lebanese civilians will lead to a widening of the conflict.
-------------------------------------------------------------------- The last time Israel attacked its northern neighbour with such ferocity was 11 years ago.
In the summer of 1982 Israeli forces launch an all-out attack on West Beirut in their final push to drive Palestinian guerrillas out of Lebanon.
Thousands of civilians were killed or wounded during a constant barrage from Israeli artillery and air power. Large areas of the city were devastated.
The assault on Beirut was the culmination of a full-scale land invasion of Lebanon, codenamed +Peace for Galilee+. It's declared aim was to expel Palestinian guerrilla units from the country, and so bring an end to rocket attacks against Israeli settlements over the border. Some 90,000 ground troops, backed up by the Israeli Air Force, swept up through southern Lebanon.
Little more than a week later, they had occupied all the south of the country, and had encircled Beirut itself.
Israeli forces had effective control over the city in September of that year, when right-wing Lebanese Phalangist forces massacred hundreds of Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Chatila camps.
Israel denied it had turned a blind eye to the atrocity.
By the end of 1983, the PLO had conceded defeat. Amid scenes of defiance, boatloads of armed Palestinian fighters sailed into exile.
The Israeli forces remained. Their occupation of south Lebanon lasted three years, but when they withdrew they clung on to a narrow strip of Lebanese territory along the northern Israeli border.
This self-styled +security zone+ was the focus of last weekend's clashes which led to Israel's current offensive. The massive assault launched early this week was to avenge the killing of seven Israeli troops here in a number of attacks this month.
A 3,000-strong militia financed by Israel, the South Lebanon Army, patrols the 15-kilometre-wide buffer zone, alongside Israeli forces. The zone was created in 1985 to protect northern Israel against cross-border guerrilla attacks.
Israel now sees as its main threat the Shiite Moslem guerrillas of Hizbollah, the Party of God. The Iranian-backed Hizbollah is the only Lebanese faction which is allowed to carry weapons openly, and to use them against Israeli forces. Hizbollah can do this only with the tacit approval of Syria, whose forces control the areas in which Hizbollah operates.
The question now is whether Syria will play Israel's game, and put pressure on Hizbollah to cease its attacks on the security zone and northern Israel. That way, the theory goes, Syria and Israel can return to the negotiating table and move forward the peace process.
The latest stage in that process began with the Madrid talks in the autumn of 1991.
After months of shuttle diplomacy by then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, Arab and Israeli officials were brought together in the Spanish capital for an unprecedented three-day session of face-to-face talks. Syria and Lebanon sent their foreign ministers, the Palestinians were represented in a joint delegation with Jordan, and Israel made a show of commitment by sending then Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. On the surface, there was little ground for agreement - accusations were made, insults traded. But the Madrid talks ended with a promise by all sides to continue discussions in a series of bilateral meetings.
To resolve a dispute over the venue, the United States government stepped in and invited all the parties to Washington.
Talks at delegation level finally got underway there towards the end of 1991.
Ten rounds of talks have been held since then, and little has been achieved. The talks were blocked for months after Israel deported 415 Palestinians for allegedly supporting radical Moslem groups. A handful have been allowed to return home, but most are still stranded on a hillside in the so-called security zone.
So what are the prospects now for the peace process? After nearly a week of continual air strikes against south Lebanon, backed up by artillery and naval barrages, many civilians have died and hundreds more are wounded. An estimated 200,000 have fled their homes and headed north to safety. U.S. President Clinton and the United Nations have called on Israel to stop its bombardment, and there has been worldwide condemnation of the offensive.
Israeli prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin says he wants to create a refugee problem in Lebanon in order to persuade the Lebanese government to crack down on the guerrillas in the south.
Throughout its short history, Israel's maxim has been that the end justifies the means. It's aim now is to wipe out the guerrilla threat from southern Lebanon, but Israel is also gambling that a short, punitive action can break the deadlock in the Washington talks. Hizbollah's declared aim is to sabotage those talks, so if Syria were to put pressure on the guerrillas, their threat to the peace process would disappear.
U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher is to leave this weekend on another tour of Middle Eastern capitals in an effort to restart the talks. But Hizbollah is as defiant as ever. Whether Syria will allow Hizbollah to draw Lebanon's neighbours into a wider conflict remains an open question.