Israel recently conveyed a warning to Syria through a third party that it would hold Damascus accountable if Hizbullah launched attacks on the Jewish state, Israeli and European sources said on Friday.
The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the warning stemmed largely from Israeli concerns that Hizbullah would launch salvoes of cross-border rockets to coincide with any major Israeli offensive in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
The sources said the message was conveyed in February through at least one European intermediary following the assassination of a top Hizbullah commander and before this month's five-day Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.
After the group's senior commander, Imad Mugniyah, was killed in a bombing in Damascus, Hizbullah leader Nasrallah threatened Israel with "open war."
'This is sound strategy'
A European source familiar with the matter noted that the message conveyed to Damascus said Syria could be targeted by Israel even if Hizbullah's attack emanated from Lebanese soil.
An Israeli source with knowledge of government affairs said: "The message was passed around late February, before the last round of fighting in Gaza."
"It has become clear to us Syria has to understand there is a price for its use of proxy terrorism, especially as Damascus is itself a proxy - the long-arm of Iran," the source said.
Another senior Israeli government official with knowledge of defence affairs declined comment on whether a message was sent to Damascus, but told Reuters: "This is sound strategy. Syria has significantly deepened its involvement with Hizbullah in southern Lebanon since the war."
Asked about the risk of an Israeli attack on Syria in response to a Hizbullah attack, a British official said: "There is always a danger that a turn of events here could prompt something on the northern border, which would be a disaster."