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Olmert Demands Palestinian Crackdown on Militants After Attack on Soldiers


Israel is demanding a Palestinian crackdown on militants, after a deadly attack in the West Bank. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the violence is the latest obstacle to peace efforts, a month after a U.S.-sponsored peace conference.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says Israel will not move ahead with the peace process until the Palestinian Authority takes tougher action against militant groups.

Mr. Olmert told the Cabinet that Israel will not make any changes on the ground in the West Bank that could endanger its security. He was referring to international demands to remove roadblocks and ease travel restrictions that have stifled the Palestinian economy.

The prime minister spoke after two Israeli hikers were killed by Palestinian gunmen near the West Bank town of Hebron on Friday. The Israelis, who were off-duty soldiers, returned fire and killed two of the gunmen. Two militant groups, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, claimed joint responsibility for the shooting.

Israeli television showed a masked Islamic Jihad gunman saying that the attack was a response to Israeli military action against the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He vowed that attacks against Zionist targets would continue.

The Palestinian Authority condemned the shooting and said its security forces detained several suspects. It said the arrests are proof that the government is determined to rein in militants and impose law and order in the West Bank.

But Israel is skeptical. The attack has revived Israeli suspicions that the internationally-backed Palestinian government does not control the West Bank and cannot deliver on a peace agreement.

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