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Sharon Vows Tough Action Against Palestinian Militants

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is vowing "tough new measures" against Palestinian militants if they stage attacks during or after Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The prime minister's comments come just two days after his talks with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

At the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Sharon told his ministers that Israel would not put up with continued Palestinian attacks.

Mr. Sharon said he made it clear to Secretary Rice during their talks, that Israel would react severely, with very tough measures if Palestinian militants launch attacks either during or after Israel withdraws from Gaza. He said his message to Ms. Rice was very clear on that point and left no room for doubt

Ms. Rice was in the region for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and to ensure Israel's disengagement from Gaza, due to begin in mid August stays on track. She met with Mr. Sharon at his ranch in southern Israel on Friday. A senior aide to Mr. Sharon would only say the talks had been "very friendly and frank."

At a news conference in Ramallah on Saturday, Ms. Rice praised the Palestinian leadership for its recent efforts to stop militants from launching attacks, but she said more needs to be done. She also made it clear that Israel cannot close off and isolate Palestinians living in Gaza after the withdrawal and she urged greater freedom of movement for Palestinians in the West Bank as well and said movement between the West Bank and Gaza was also vital.

As Ms. Rice was heading back to Washington Sunday and just hours before Mr. Sharon's comments to the cabinet, Palestinian militants shot and killed an Israeli couple in an ambush at the Gaza border. Israeli troops killed the gunmen. Several militant groups claimed responsibility for the attack.