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Israeli PM Vows Crackdown on Palestinian Militants Will Continue

Israel has vowed to push forward with a crackdown on Palestinian militants, following a wave of deadly Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip. Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Cabinet that Israeli military action in Gaza will continue.

He said the army would launch pinpoint raids, when it locates and identifies terrorists planning attacks on Israeli civilians.

Mr. Olmert was speaking after three air strikes in Gaza on Saturday, in which seven Palestinian militants were killed.

It was a clear signal that Israel will not tolerate continuing rocket attacks following the violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks the destruction of the Jewish state.

Israel wants to isolate Hamas in Gaza, while strengthening the government of western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank. For instance, Israel plans to release hundreds of million dollars in withheld tax revenues to Mr. Abbas, including a first payment of at least $50 million this week. It also plans to free 250 Palestinian prisoners.

At the same time, Mr. Olmert said security comes first.

He said the army would also continue raids in the West Bank, like one in the town of Nablus last week. The aim is to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from entering Israel.

But officials in the Abbas government say the raids complicate their efforts to restore law and order. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said: "Violence will only add to the complexities and will harm Palestinian interests."

Mr. Olmert praised some actions of the new Palestinian government, such as calls for militants to end incitement and disarm. He said that will lead to cooperation and enable both sides to advance the peace process.