JERUSALEM, Oct. 8 (AP)--Israel warned the Palestinians on Sunday that it might target their commanders if violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip did not stop within a day, and that it would then view peace talks as "abandoned."
Touring the border with Lebanon, Prime Minister Ehud Barak was briefed on the capture of three soldiers by Hezbollah Lebanese guerrillas the day before. Barak said he held Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon, ultimately responsible for ensuring calm on the border.
Barak said he was pessimistic about a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but that "we are stretching our hand for peace."
The Palestinians did not say if they would consider Barak's ultimatum. They blamed Israel for the violence, saying its troops used excessive force in clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian protesters that have left more than 82 people dead, mostly Palestinians. Others, including Israeli Jews, have died in clashes between civilians from both sides.
"If he [Barak] really wants to go towards peace, instead of threatening, he should pull out of our cities, our heavily populated areas," Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath told CNN. "Let's go to negotiations without the inflammation of an attacking army."
Saturday night, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution that condemned Israel for using "excessive" force against Palestinians.
The resolution said the council "condemns acts of violence, especially the excessive use of force against Palestinians, resulting in injury and loss of human life."
The United States abstained from the vote. U.S. objections included the language of the proposal, which calls the visit by Israeli Likud official Ariel Sharon to a site holy to Jews and Muslims in Jerusalem's contested Old City a "provocation."
A majority of U.N. members blame Israel for the upsurge in violence and were determined to charge Israel in a resolution.
President Clinton, trying to prevent his Mideast policy from disintegrating, repeatedly spoke by phone to Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Senior Israeli officials said Clinton was trying to arrange a summit Tuesday, but U.S. State Department officials said they had no such information.
In a news conference on the northern border, Barak repeated his ultimatum that Arafat bring violence to an end by Monday evening, the end of Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
"If we will not see the difference, actively implemented, on the ground, and a calming down of the situation really occurring, we will draw the conclusion that Arafat deliberately has decided to abandon the negotiations," Barak said.
His National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan, said that if the deadline is not met, Israeli troops would no longer just react.
"We could...as far as I am concerned, even attack the headquarters of those responsible for the situation," Dayan told Israel radio. Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said Israel had barely used "one percent" of its force in dealing with the Palestinians.
Israel was already ratcheting up the pressure. Before dawn Sunday, the Israeli military Sunday blew up two multi-story apartment buildings and another building near the Netzarim junction in Gaza that has been the focus of riots and gun battles. The military said it cleared an area of several dozen yards around the fortified position to prevent attacks, the statement said.
In the West Bank, the Israelis sent attack helicopters into Hebron for the first time, blasting hilltop positions used by Palestinians to fire on the Jewish settler enclave below.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, an Israeli army commander advised Palestinians in houses near the Jewish settlement of Psagot to leave their homes.
For several days, Palestinians have been firing at the settlement from the houses, and Col. Gal Hirsch, who commands Israeli forces in the region, said the army would not show restraint should the gunfire start again.
"We will use all we have in the army arsenal," he said, surveying the high-rise apartment buildings across the valley.
In a sign of possible conciliation, an Israeli commander in the south met with Palestinian security officials in talks chaired by CIA officials. Maj. Gen. Yom Tov Samia said an understanding was emerging with the Palestinians on four points: a cease-fire, an opening of the roads near Netzarim, an end to broadcast incitement on official Palestinian media, and a stop to the release of radicals from Palestinian prisons.
Palestinian officials could not be reached to confirm the deal, but previous agreements since the violence started on Sept. 28 have collapsed within hours.
Sneh, the deputy defense minister, said Israel was ready to fight on two fronts: in the Palestinian areas and along the Lebanese border, if necessary.
"We have enough strength for that. We shall have to be less restrained than we were in the past," Sneh said.