US asks Israel not to retaliate against Syria for hang-glider attack
The United States has asked Israel to refrain from retaliating against Syria for a hang-glider attack by a Syrian-backed guerrilla group that killed six Israeli soldiers, State Department officials said yesterday. US diplomats have also asked Syria to use its influence with the Palestinian guerrilla group that carried out the Nov. 25 attack in northern Israel and prevent further actions by the group against Israel, the officials said.
``We've asked both sides to exercise restraint,'' said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. ``It's much better to avoid escalation between Syria and Israel,'' he added, noting that the two enemy states had enjoyed relatively calm relations in recent months.
The requests to both sides were made last week in the wake of concern expressed by Jordan's King Hussein that Israel was planning a retaliatory strike for one of the bloodiest attacks against its troops in recent years, said the official.
The summit meeting between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was also a factor, he added. The Soviets support Syria while the US supports Israel in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
``The summit was a consideration, although by no means a major one. After all, it will be over in three days,'' the official said.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir verified that Israel had been asked not to retaliate, but he said the country would make its own decision on when and how to respond.
King Hussein was concerned that an Israeli attack would undermine the progress achieved last month at an Arab League summit meeting in Amman.
Syria has not responded to the US request, said the US official.